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A (Baker's) Dozen Handy Tips for Surviving RECongress
If you're not already familiar with it, the RECongress is probably the largest regularly scheduled gathering of Catholics in North America. It is held at the Anaheim Convention Center across the street from Disneyland. Thursday is Youth Day, which attracts nearly 15,000 high schoolers, and Friday through Sunday is the Congress itself which is attended by 20,000 teachers, catechists, musicians and other Catholics in ministry from all over the country. There are dozens of conference sessions each day with Masses and other events in the evenings. Here are a dozen handy tips for surviving the Religious Education Congress.
Dress for comfort
There is nothing formal about RECongress. Good shoes and socks are a must. Think of it as going on a day hike with 10,000 of your closest friends!
Get there the night before
If possible, even Thursday afternoon (Youth Day). Try to avoid crossing Downtown Los Angeles between the hours of 3 pm and 7 pm.
Take your entire registration packet
Bring the whole envelope with you, and get there Thursday between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 pm or early Friday to avoid lines when picking up your book and nametag holder. Once you have your book, keep track of it as it has most of the information you need, and the text of the Arena liturgies. Stick your tickets behind your nametag holder so you will have them when you need them.
Bring a pack to carry
Something you are comfortable lugging all day a shoulder strap to take the weight can be a life saver. There are no lockers nor coat nor bag check. If you bring a rolling cart/backpack/briefcase, be prepared for the escalators, stairs or elevators in the Arena and Convention Center. Note: The Convention Center does not allow rolling carts on the escalators.
Pack a lunch
Especially if you have special dietary needs. You can save money, time, and the aggravation of lines by bringing your own lunch with you each day.
Take everything you need and nothing else
Pack that lunch, a small bottle of water (there is ice water in each conference room), medicines and anything else you need to have during the day. Dont plan to return to your room unless your hotel is very close. Leave room for your jacket or sweater (as it can get warm in some areas) and, of course, room for any purchases you plan to make. Also, some conference sessions and all liturgies tend to be crowded, so you dont want too much stuff in the way it may all end up on your lap.
Lose the car
Either walk from your hotel or take ART, the Anaheim area shuttle ($3 per day; check with your hotel) parking at the Convention Center is $16 per day and can be a hassle.
Get your serious shopping and buying done on Friday. Saturday is a zoo with the vendors in the Exhibit Hall and many are bought out by Sunday. If you are a Director of Religious Education or Youth Minister, you can have items mailed to the parish. Ask the vendor if they can provide shipping (free or at additional cost) so that you don't have to pack books, resources, CDs, etc.
Plan ahead for evening Mass and dinner
Know where and when you will meet with other members of your group. Especially for Saturday dinner -- make advanced reservations during the week to avoid long waits; nearby restaurants such as Buca di Beppo, Tony Roma's and Downtown Disney locations get extremely busy. (There is a restaurant listing in the Program Book, and a reservation booth in the Convention Center Prefunction Lobby.)
Find Sacred Space or some other peaceful corner and make sure to get some quiet time in by yourself or with a small group of friends. And dont feel like you have to go to everything sometimes its better just to kick back and buy the tape later. Dont forget that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered (sometimes there is nothing like confession to a priest you dont know). The Chapel and Reconciliation are located near each other on the third floor in the Convention Center.
Arena sessions are always open
Remember, you can always hang out at or near the Arena sessions (English in the Arena; Spanish in Hall B), which can be a good place to meet up as well.
Avoid long bathroom lines
If you don't mind briefly stepping out of a workshop, use the restroom 30 minutes before the workshop ends.
Go where everyone else is not going
There is a main drag in the Convention Center from the Arena, through Hall A, past Hall B (the Spanish "Arena") to the first escalator in the main lobby of the Convention Center. Most of the workshops are on the second and third floors of this area. Most people just stay on this one beaten path and use the first escalator they come to and the worst crowd scenes of Congress result. Sometimes it's just easier to walk around the outside of the Center (there is a very nice walkway between the Hilton and the Convention Center just for this) and when you get to the lobby, go to the far end where there is another elevator that is not nearly as crowded. If you have mobility problems, there are elevators just for you.
Addendum: If there are protesters at Congress, please do not engage in conversation with them. Ignoring them is the best way to respond. We work annually with Convention Center staff to handle any potential protests.
Have fun, take it easy, and give the Holy Spirit some room to work in!
Originally appearing online at One Pilgrim's Walk
blog of Thursday, February 12, 2004
by Claude Muncey
with added comments by Teena Posas
Youth Ministry Director at St. Joseph Church, Pinole, CA
last updated April 06, 2018