In late March, CCSTA President Marino Gazzola was one of about 30,000 people that came together in Los Angeles, California to connect, learn, and celebrate Catholic education around the world. The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (RECongress) is an annual event that “offers in-service education and spiritual formation to those in catechetical and related ministries,” says Jan Pedroza, Religious Education Congress Program Coordinator. Hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the congress is a Catholic-focused congress that has grown to include people from a wide variety of different vocations and faiths. It was Mr. Gazzola’s first time attending the event, and he says it was an amazing experience.
“It was certainly the best conference or congress I’ve ever been at,” he says. “It was unreal. The experience of being at a Mass with almost 10,000 people was just out of this world.”
Mr. Gazzola says they had heard such glowing reviews about the congress from Catholic educators in western Canada that the CCSTA felt they had to send a representative. He was there for the whole event, from Thursday to Sunday.
“Certainly, the leader of any Catholic organization needs to be there,” says Mr. Gazzola. “If only because of the networking and the contacts.”
In addition, there were over 300 workshops run at this year’s congress. Mr. Gazolla was able to attend eight of them, and he says that “the information was incredible.”
Some of the workshops he personally attended were on marketing in Catholic education, the commitment involved in Catholic education, how different Catholic organizations think about and treat certain groups (such as LGBTQ+ people), and many others.
“I tried to pick a variety of workshops and see a variety of speakers,” says Mr. Gazzola. “One presentation I saw was from a priest and a nun, one was done by a psychologist, and others were done by various professionals. So, it’s just a matter of picking different ones that you think might be relevant and interesting.”
He also says that learning about the American Catholic education experience, where all schools are either private or parochial, was eye opening and inspirational.
“You hear what they have to go through to maintain Catholic education, what they have to pay, and you realize how fortunate we are here in Ontario,” he says. “It’s inspiring learning about the incredible commitment and dedication that they have to preserving and promoting the incredible value and importance of Catholic education”
Mr. Gazzola says he believes that in the future the CCSTA should always be sending a representative to the RECongress.
“I think the value of attending this congress is so great,” he says. “It’s not something that should be missed.”