The congress, this year, offers, says the guidebook, "several eucharistic liturgies of different character," including: "Byzantine, Jazz, Hispanic, Nigerian/African-American, Asian and Young Adult." The keynote speaker is Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, who in 1994 expressed his "inner turmoil" over the pope's declaration that women could not be priests. "I know that in the long run my obedience will result in a deepening of my faith," wrote Weakland, "but I state sincerely that it will not be done without much sacrifice and inner searching. Yet, as a bishop," continued the archbishop, "I would not be loyal to the Holy Father if I did not again point out the pastoral problems I now will face in my archdiocese. These have to be the object of my concern because many will be confused and troubled, discouraged and disillusioned, especially younger women and vowed religious, who still see this question as one of justice and equality, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding? What effects will this declaration have on those men and women for whom the issue of the way in which the church exercises its authority is already a problem? Many are still wrestling with Humanæ Vitæ, and thus have difficulty accepting that a single person alone can decide what they must in faith accept. Are they now to be put against the wall, as it were, over this issue?"
Weakland has been friendly to Call to Action, a dissident group that calls for women's ordination, Church permission for remarriage of divorced Catholics, and recognition of homosexuality as a valid orientation, among others issues. Call to Action held its national conference in Milwaukee in early November, 2000, that featured Father Michael Crosby and Sister Helen Prejean -- both of whom are addressing the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress this year. Other congress speakers who follow the Call to Action circuit are Megan McKenna, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, and the sexologist team of Sister Fran Ferder and Father John Heagle. Father Richard Rohr will speak again at the congress this year. Rohr, a promoter of the Enneagram, is the founder and former director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which promotes "wild man" initiation rituals for men and Zen Buddhist contemplation.
Of, perhaps, more conventional interest will be a talk given by Dr. Paul Ford of St. John's Seminary in Camarillo which will discuss the subject of "God's Delight in Us, God's Desire For Us" as found in the Scriptures, and in the writings of St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, St. Therese of Lisieux, C.S. Lewis, and others. Father Alexei Smith, pastor of St. Andrew's Russian Catholic Church in El Segundo will dedicate his workshop to the spirituality of the Byzantine holy week.
For those interested in liturgical dance, Betsey Beckman, a "freelance liturgical dancer, choreographer, movement therapist, author and storyteller," will address "dancing our liturgies to life." Participants of Beckman's workshop will "explore gesture, sign language, dance and drama as ways of involving our assemblies in moving prayer and dancing though death to new life."
According to the guidebook, the Religious Education Congress will feature 150 speakers who will offer "over 250 workshops in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin." Dioceses across the country send their religious educators to the congress whose attendance every year reaches about 20,000.
Copyright 2001 The
Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission