Behind the Scenes of the
Los Angeles Religious Education Congress


Our Los Angeles Religious Education Congress could not function without the hundreds of volunteers who give of their time. We have those volunteers who are "out in front" -- as workshop Assistants (ticket takers/greeters), Chairperson (workshop coordinator) and Master of Ceremonies "MC" (who introduce the speaker and makes announcements) -- but there is an army of people behind the scenes.  These is to highlight just a few of the committee members, coordinators and volunteers who work behind the scenes.


Name:

Jean Essa


City/State:

Burbank, California

 

What is your “day” job?
My current position is Director of Religious Education at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood. Previously, I taught at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School (now St. John Paul II STEM Academy) for 15 years.

What and when was your first RECongress experience?
My first experience with the Religious Education Congress was in 1984. My husband and I attended with our son who was 7 months old. We were standing outside the double doors to the Arena when Cardinal Timothy Manning walked up to us as he was preparing to process in for the Closing Liturgy. Our son immediately grabbed his cross that was hanging around his neck. Cardinal Manning was so gracious and engaged our son and simply laughed. A Tidings photographer happened to be there and snapped a photo of the two of them, which ended up on the cover of the next issue of The Tidings.

 

What is your current role in RECongress?
My involvement with the Religious Education Congress began with planning liturgies and opening rallies for Youth Day. At that time, I was on the team led by Mike Norman. Paulette Smith invited me to coordinate liturgies for the adults in 2015 and currently am co-coordinating Saturday Evening Prayer.

 

What is the most meaningful (or toughest) part of your role?

The rewards far outnumber the challenges when coordinating liturgies. There are so many talented and creative people in this archdiocese that I feel blessed to be working with them. When the liturgy begins, everything falls into place.

 

What are your most memorable RECongress moments?
Every Congress is memorable from listening to the various speakers to seeing thousands of excited youth praying and singing in the Arena. One of the most memorable experiences was my first closing liturgy I attended. Watching the clergy process in reminded me of the richness and diversity of our Catholic Church. However, when our son met Cardinal Manning back in 1984, I think that will forever be etched in my heart.



 

Name:

Bianca Langlois


City/State:

I live in Simi Valley, California


What is your “day” job?

I am the Director of Faith Formation at St. Peter Claver Parish in Simi Valley


What and when was your first RECongress experience?

My first experience attending RE Congress was in 1983 when a group of parishioners got together and encouraged me to attend. They promised me that I would learn so much from the remarkable and gifted presenters and experience fellowship with a diverse group of wonderful people! They were right!

 

What is your current role in RECongress?

My current role this year for RE Congress is Coordinating Saturday Morning Praise with a talented co-coordinator Laura Diaz and a gifted team, Jesse Manibusan for music and Ann Myers for movement.  


How did you become a part of the REC team?

I first began volunteering to assist with Youth Liturgies in 1990 and as time progressed Paulette Smith invited me to coordinate liturgies for congress.

 

What is the most meaningful (or toughest) part of your role?
The most meaningful part of my role is that I have the opportunity to sit with spirit-filled people who come together to create a morning prayer that, we hope, reflects the RE Congress theme, frames the Keynote Speaker and their work and resonates with the prayer community attending that morning.


What are your most memorable RECongress moments?

A couple of my most memorable RE Congress moments were coordinating the 2016 Arena Mass for “Church on the Margins” with Fr. Greg Boyle as presider. By talking with different communities in Los Angeles I learned so much about their lives and they helped me to develop a deeper understanding of our Church on the margins. It was a privilege given to me because I was coordinating this Mass that I would not have had otherwise. I'm grateful for the experience.

 

The 2015 Australian Arena Mass was an experience because everything was co-coordinated via email. Anne Frawley-Mangan was their coordinator and I was the stateside contact for forms and questions. But when they arrived, I had the privilege of meeting the entire team, along with a team of indigenous youth who came as the liturgical movement team, absolutely unforgettable! They were a community of joyful and big-hearted people I will never forget! 




Name:

Monica Luther


City/State:

La Mirada, California

 

What is your “day” job?
Instructional Specialist, Secondary Literacy for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

What and when was your first RECongress experience?
Monica’s first RECongress was in 1996 when she made her debut as a minister of liturgical movement. She’s been abundantly blessed to continue to minister in that role for the past 23 years. She has essentially “grown up” in the RECongress world, entering as a young teen and the RECongress has been a steadfast anchor for her through high school, college, grad school, marriage, two children, a doctorate program and into the beautiful life she leads now.

What is your current role in RECongress?
You may recognize Monica as one of the many Ministers of Liturgical Movement that enhance liturgical celebrations, prayer services, and concerts. She choreographs and coordinates movement for many events of the Religious Education Congress each year. Monica also serves as a member of the RECongress Liturgy Committee and a workshop speaker.

How did you become a part of the RECongress team?
Sr. Edith Prendergast and John Flaherty invited Monica to join the RECongress team in 2008 and she’s been blessed to learn with some of the world’s most formidable Catholic leaders since that time. Monica has become a part of the RECongress family that collaboratively develops liturgies to be share with people from all of the world.

What is the most meaningful (or toughest) part of your role?
The most meaningful part of the role is offering her prayer through movement to share with assemblies. Connecting with people beyond words and music, but through communal gesture which will always unify us as ONE body. How can sharing your expression of prayer be tough? I’m grateful to have church leaders that value the artistry and prayer of liturgical movement.

What are your most memorable RECongress moments?
– Dancing a pas de deux while pregnant with my babies in 2011 and again in 2013.
– The 2014 Friday evening “Urban Fusion Liturgy” with Meredith Augustin.
– Encouraging an entire assembly to use American Sign Language for “Grateful” during the 2015 Opening Rite & Welcome and then everyone doing it!
– The 2016 Friday Evening Concert in the Arena with John Angotti, “JŌB: The Now Testament – A Musical of Hope & Healing”
– The 2017 Period 5 session in the Arena, “Voices of Angels” with Liam Lawton
(There are SO many moments! I'll stop there...)




Name:
Brian Custer

 

City/State:
Hawthorne, Calif.

 

What is your “day” job?
Multifamily Loan Officer (makes loans on apartment buildings)

 

What and when was your first RECongress experience?
My first RECongress experience was in 2001 as part of the Sacristy crew. I was a sophomore at Loyola marymount University LMU and was part of about 20 LMU students and alums that were working that year.

 

What is your current role in RECongress?
I am the Head Sacristan and a member of the Liturgy Committee. I have been in this role since 2005.

 

How did you become a part of the REC team?
I was serving as an acolyte at LMU and was invited to join the team. Over the years, I enjoyed the work and continued to ask questions about how and why we did what we did. When the Head Sacristan roll was available ahead of the 2005 Congress, I was honored to be offered the chance to lead such a phenomenal team. My time with the Sacristy and Liturgy Committee have been such a blessing! Working with current LMU students helps keep me young and I have made friends with some many current and former sacristans and other liturgical ministers.

 

What is the most meaningful (or toughest) part of your role?
The most meaningful part of the event definitely revolves around the Eucharist. The Sacristy prepares the hosts and wine for all of the lituriges. We physically move the Blessed Sacrament from the Sacristy to Sacred Space each day. This has evolved into a Eucharistic Procession of sorts, with sacristans in Albs using candles and incense to mark this occasion each day. We spend time in the tabernacle counting the Blessed Sacrament so we don’t over consecrate at the Arena lituriges. This time, spent with prayer and reflection gives us life and energy during our long days in Anheim. The sacristans, now numbering around 30, from LMU students and alumni as well as other dedicated young people, spend over 12 hours a day on their feet packing, unpacking, cleaning, counting, securing and preparing all the physical needs for worship. It’s grueling. But with the fellowship of years spent together and surrounded by the hallmarks of our faith, it’s really tremendous work.

 

What are your most memorable RECongress moments?
There are so many. One year, there was a visiting bishop from communist North Korea who visited with Cardinal Roger Mahony in the sacristy and told us, through an interpretor, about having to lead the church in secret and never wear clerics. He talked of leaving the country clandestinely to come to Congress, and changing into clerics and his pectoral cross at the airport in South Korea so he could publicly assume his office. That was a powerful reminder of the challenges facing our Church in corners of the world.

There have been so many beautiful moments, where liturgy and music and faith come together to make something powerful and greater than the sum of the team working so hard. I met my wife through our RECongress volunteerism and we’ve been blessed to have our four children with us in the sacristy. Holding their hand and sharing a love of liturgy with them is the best blessing from volunteering at Congress!




Name:

Steve Meza

City/State:

Los Angeles, CA

What is your “day” job?
I actually split my time working at a parish in Los Angeles mainly dealing with liturgies and communications and as a special event photographer for red carpets and charity events.

What and when was your first RECongress experience?
My first RECongress was in 2000. In my first year I came in as a workshop volunteer and served as a workshop Chairperson and Assistant taking tickets. I had such a great experience meeting so many people and loving the workshops that I’ve been back every year since.

What is your current role in RECongress?
My current role is Area Captain Chairperson on the RECongress Committee.

How did you become a part of the RECongress team?
After several years of volunteering as a workshop volunteer and then as an Area Captain. I was asked to be the Area Captain Chairperson to assist in organizing and recruiting area captains.

What is the most meaningful (or toughest) part of your role?
The most meaningful definitely continues to be meeting so many people from so many different places across the country and the world. Being able to interact with them and ensure that they love RECongress and it is fruitful and beneficial for them is the best. That also makes it the toughest part especially when behind-the-scene issues arise or when we have sold out workshops. Making sure the attendees still feel welcome and happy and keep coming back year after year.

What are your most memorable RECongress moments?
There are too many to list. But every year I am always in awe at the Closing Liturgy. Being in such a beautiful space with so many Catholics celebrating the Eucharist is something I take with me leaving Anaheim every year.




Name:

Francesca Dimaisip

 

City/State:
North Hills, Calif.

 

What is your “day” job?

I work as a Supervision Aide at Wilbur Elementary School in Tarzana and a Senior Teacher and Camp Counselor at the Yarrow Family YMCA in Westlake Village.

 

What and when was your first RECongress experience?

I attended RECongress for the first time in 2014. I was given the opportunity to go to Anaheim through Campus Ministry at Mount Saint Mary’s University. I helped at different Masses as an altar server and Eucharistic Minister. I also became part of the Taize Prayer team that year.

What is your current role in RECongress?

My current role includes Congress Choir Member (Alto), I volunteer as Master of Ceremonies (MC) and Chairperson for various workshops, and alum volunteer through Campus Ministry at Mount Saint Mary’s University.


How did you become a part of the REC team?

I became a part of the RECongress through volunteering as a Campus Minister and Alum Campus Minister at Mount Saint Mary’s University.


What is the most meaningful (or toughest) part of your role?

The most meaningful part of my role is being an MC. I get to learn more about the workshop speakers and the workshop.


What are your most memorable RECongress moments?

My most memorable moments from RECongress include being an MC for speakers Brandi Milloy, Sarah Hart, Jeanne Cotter, and Tony Alonso at REC 2019. In Sarah’s workshop, right before I went up to MC, I approached Sarah and talked to her about how nervous I was and she assured me I’d be just fine. Right after I finished her introduction and the prayer, she gave me a big hug. At the end of Jeanne's and Tony’s workshop, Jeanne approached me and told me that I had given the best introduction she’s ever had! I also enjoy every moment with the Congress Choir!

 



Nombre:
Katya Acuña

Ciudad/Estado:
Oxnard, California

¿A qué te dedicas, cuál es tu trabajo?

Soy maestra de tercer grado en una escuela pública en Port Hueneme, California.

 

¿Cuál y cuándo fue tu primera experiencia con el RECongress?

Yo asistí al Congreso por la primera vez en 1999 con mi grupo de confirmación. Pete Rydberg, el ministro de jóvenes de la iglesia Santa Clara en Oxnard, nos trajo para poder aprender más sobre nuestra fe, y ahora cumplo 20 años asistiendo al Congreso.

 

¿Cuál es tu papel actual en RECongress?
Soy miembro del comité de la liturgia, y ayudo con los ministros de eucaristía en las misas de español.

 

¿Cómo te convertiste en parte del equipo de REC?

Cuando entré a la universidad de Loyola Marymount, una amiga me invitó a ser sacristana en las misas universitarias, y cuando los organizadores del Congreso necesitaron ayuda en la sacristía aquí, invitaron a nosotros los estudiantes. Eso fue en el año 2001 y me encantó. De ahí, me invitaron a ser parte del comité de la liturgia.

 

¿Cuál es la parte más significativa (o más difícil) de tu rol?

Lo más significativo de mi rol es poder conocer y trabajar con personas tan dedicadas a nuestro llamado a servir y amar a Dios y a nuestro prójimo.


¿Cuáles son tus momentos RECongresos más memorables?

Los sacristanes del Congreso trabajan muy duro, a veces hasta la una o dos de la mañana y empiezan a trabajar otra vez a las seis de la mañana. Nunca olvidaré el año que trabajamos una noche hasta las 4:00 a.m. Aunque si fue muy fatigoso, nos divertimos mucho y podemos asegurar que cada persona en el RECongress pudiera recibir Cristo en la eucaristía.



Nombre:
Ana Leticia Torres G.

Ciudad/Estado:
Gardena, California

¿A qué te dedicas, cuál es tu trabajo?
En este momento soy voluntaria en mi comunidad y me estoy preparando para empoderar a la comunidad.

¿Cuál y cuándo fue tu primera experiencia con el RECongress?
En el 2009 como parte de mi formación como catequista

¿Cuál es tu papel actual en RECongress?
Ayudo traduciendo materiales del inglés al español.

¿Cómo te convertiste en parte del equipo de REC?
Un conocido, no recuerdo quien, me pregunto si me interesaría ayudar con traducciones que alguien en la arquidiócesis estaba buscando ayuda.

¿Cuál es la parte más significativa (o más difícil) de tu rol?
La más significativa es saber que ayudo a otros.

¿Cuáles son tus momentos RECongresos más memorables?
Son muchos que es difícil de escoger.

 



Nombre:
Mary Janus

 

City/State:
Northroidge, Calif.

What is your “day” job?
Director of Music Ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Northridge, Calif., directing several ensembles including the contemporary music ensemble, “Harmonia,” who not only serve weekly but also for many Archdiocesan celebrations.

What is your current role in RECongress?
A volunteer and member of the Liturgy Committee and musical events that take place and knows practically every instrumentalist and singer in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County area. She always knows exactly the right person to call on for the right task.

 


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