LA’s own Fr. Greg Boyle and Sister Norma Pimentel are among the major Catholic names headlining this year’s Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (REC), which is being held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The online event will take place Feb. 18-21 and will include many familiar REC attractions including concerts, art exhibits, workshops, and even an exhibit hall — all in a virtual format.
This year’s theme, “Proclaim the Promise” is “an invitation to believe that our lives and our world are sustained by God’s promise” in today’s times, said Sister Rosalia Meza, director of the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which organizes the event.
Besides Fr. Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, and Sister Pimentel, who was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2020, other keynote speakers include Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego; Sister Teresa Maya, former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR); Bishop Fernand Cheri, auxiliary bishop of New Orleans; and Noel Diaz, founder of Spanish-language broadcast network El Sembrador.
Sister Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, is known for her humanitarian efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border. This year will mark her second time as a keynote speaker at REC. She was also a keynote speaker at the event in 2019.
Catholic speaker and author Katie Prejean McGrady and Fr. Joshua Johnson of the Diocese of Baton Rouge will be the keynote speakers for the event’s youth track, which will feature pre-recorded workshops, social media challenges, prayer experiences for younger participants who would normally attend REC’s “Youth Day.”
Participants will be able to view 34 workshops in English, including “Social media and the culture of contempt,” from Bishop Robert Barron and “Surviving COVID-19: Spiritual practices that helped me heal in mind, body, and spirit,” with artist and professor Anne Kertz Kernion. In one of the 17 Spanish workshops, Sr. Pimentel will discuss her experience accompanying refugee families at the border during the pandemic. Four workshops will also be held in Vietnamese.
Concerts from Catholic musicians and singers will be held each night, and four Catholic artists will provide an inside view into their art and music studios, sharing how their faith inspires their works.
Sr. Meza acknowledged last summer that it was “painful” to have to cancel the in-person event but expressed hope that the virtual Congress “will open a new door” to “reach more people locally, nationally, and internationally.”
Registration for Congress is $35 per participant, and provides access to the online platform through March 21. For more information, visit recongress.org/virtual.