As Catholics, few things are as rewarding as coming together with our colleagues from around the world to learn, grow, share, and connect. There are several such events happening over the next few months (some of them right here in Ottawa) and we’ve put together a list of the major ones.
CCSTA President Marino Gazzola and CCSTA Executive Director Julian Hanlon will be attending as many as their schedules allow, and we invite everyone to consider doing the same. These gatherings are always inspirational experiences.
Los Angeles, CA | March 22-24, 2019
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. Anyone involved in religious education in any way and at any level is sure to find the RECongress enlightening, engaging, and informative.
The event opens Thursday, March 21 with a day-long event for high school students. It is an opportunity for youth to come together to share in liturgy, workshops, entertainment, and to experience the energy of a Youth Day Rally.
For the past 64 years, the RECongress has been “an event of inspiration, formation, and renewal,” says Ms. Pedroza. “It has proven successful because of the wide variety of speakers, workshops, focused, liturgies, concerts, the wonderful Exhibit Hall, and a multitude of other events for people to participate in and enjoy. Each year, we add new speakers to our existing roster, which adds more diversity and excitement to the attendees’ experience.”
The Adult Congress takes place over the next three days, from March 22 to 24. It is open to adults of all ages and features over 200 speakers, more than 300 workshops, lunchtime entertainment, evening concerts, 16 liturgies, and much more. The event also hosts the Exhibit Hall, a showcase of over 200 companies ranging from religious art and music to publishing houses and educational institutions.
Ms. Pedroza says that this year’s congress will be even more exciting than usual due to having complete use of the new Anaheim Convention Center North Hall, a “brand new facility with state-of-the-art style and engineering.”
This year’s theme is Thirsting for Justice. The theme comes from the story of the Woman at the Well from St. John’s Gospel. One day, Jesus came upon a woman of questionable reputation at a well. Instead of shunning her like the rest of her community, he invited her to believe and accept that he was the Messiah, and he quenched her thirst with living water. Filled with new belief, she carried the good news of Jesus to the village. The imagery of quenching thirst with the infinite love and mercy of the Lord instead of water is powerful, and it has called so many to conversion and faith.
Ms. Pedroza urges everyone to visit the RECongress 2019 website to learn more about this year’s congress or to take a look at past highlights from previous events.
Ottawa, ON | April 4-6, 2019
The National Conference on Evangelization and Catechesis will take place in Ottawa from April 4 to 6. It is a Canadian event that isn’t specifically focused on formal Catholic school curriculums. Instead, it caters to Catholic education in the broadest sense, welcoming everyone from parish youth leaders to faith animators.
This year’s theme is He Thirsts for You, and it is also based on the scripture passage of the Woman at the Well. The talented young playwright Elisa Lollino put together a one-woman play based on the story which will serve as the opening production for the conference.
“In that passage, we recognize that this woman has encountered Jesus in a particular way and has been called to go and give witness to what she has seen and heard,” says Marg Shea-Lawrence, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. “So, the theme became He Thirsts for You.”
The first Keynote Address from Dr. Josephine Lombardi will focus on the theme of At the Well: The Encounter that Transforms.
“When you encounter Christ, you can’t help but have your life transformed,” says Ms. Shea-Lawrence.
On Friday, there will be two workshops from Father Ron Rolheiser called From the Well to the World exploring how people can share the good news of their transformational encounter with Jesus and invite them to believe.
To wrap up the keynote addresses on the final day, Most Reverend William McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary, will be speaking on the theme of Returning to the Well: Ongoing Transformation.
“He will be talking about our need for continued nourishment and transformation that comes with renewing our encounters with Christ each day,” says Mrs. Shea-Lawrence.
Along with the major presentations, there will be a series of 12 workshops going on throughout the conference on a wide variety of topics. Each participant will be able to take part in four of them.
“I always look forward to an opportunity to bring people together to share our faith and to reflect on our baptismal call to be missionary disciples,” says Ms. Shea-Lawrence. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful gathering of bishops, priests, and lay faithful who will each bring their own wonderful perspective on the question of evangelization.”
Chicago, IL | April 23-25, 2019
The National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo (NCEA 2019) is the largest private education association gathering in the world. Held in fellowship with the Archdiocese of Chicago, this unique event brings together everyone involved in Catholic education from across the world to exchange ideas and share new research and technologies related to education. The convention features workshops and professional development opportunities for those involved in Catholic education at all levels.
“The purpose of the NCEA convention is really twofold,” says National Catholic EducationL Association CEO/President Thomas Burnford. “Firstly, it’s for the professional development and formation of the teachers, principals, and Catholic school educators who come. Secondly, and equally important, it’s a visible statement, a visible manifestation, of the strength and power of Catholic schools in the United States and around the world.”
The convention brings together faith-based educators of all kinds: preschool, elementary, secondary, adult education, post-secondary, pastors, priests, parish volunteers, and more. It features hundreds of professional development sessions, several beautiful liturgies, and a variety of special events.
“Our goal is to build up and encourage the teachers by having them come together and realize that they are part of something huge. Catholic schools are an essential ministry of the church and a proven way to pass on the faith to future generations,” says Mr. Burnford. “We’re also hoping to achieve a real sense of growth and learning on the part of the teachers and principals.”
This year’s convention will also feature the very first mini-conference within the larger event focusing on early childhood development.
“It sold out very quickly, so we had to expand it,” says Mr. Burnford. “It will essentially be a much deeper dive into early childhood education than would be possible in the general convention.”
Ann Garrido will be giving the keynote address, entitled Embracing Grace in the 21st Century Church. She will be reflecting on the small graces that sustain Catholic educators and keep them hopeful and learning. Her address will invite educators to remember why they do what they do, as they also consider who they are becoming.
“She is going to deliver a tremendous presentation on the mission of the Catholic school teacher,” says Mr. Burnford.
Their Expo Hall also showcases the latest in education technology, products, and services. The NCEA takes pride in how interactive the experience is.
“Teachers can walk around and see new tools, materials, resources, technologies, and ways of learning, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas, that are really useful and can help give ideas to teachers to help enhance their pedagogy and formation in the classroom,” says Mr. Burnford.
Mr. Burnford says it’s important to note that the largest NCEA convention in recent history was in the early 1990s when it was held in Toronto.
“The real message is this: we want to welcome all Catholic school educators from Canada to come join us,” he says. “We would love to see a strong Canadian representation at this year’s convention. We know the strength of your Catholic schools. We are all part of one ministry of a universal church, so I would like to send a personal invitation to Canada to come on out.”
Ottawa, ON | May 2, 2019
The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held under the combined authority of the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons. Since its inception in 1964, it has given people from differing backgrounds the opportunity to gather together with elected officials and pray for Canada. In these non-partisan gatherings, members are given the chance to get to know one another better and form genuine friendships and connections.
The annual National Prayer Breakfast is Christ-centered, but it is not exclusively for Christians. Everyone is welcome, no matter their religious background or political views. It’s about reaching out with respect and love to all people.
“The main purpose is to bring Canadians from across the country, from all walks of life, together with their political leaders to gather in the spirit of Jesus and talk about their faith,” says Jack Murta, one of the organizers of the annual breakfast.
This year’s Prayer Breakfast will also be hosting the National Christian Youth Summit. It’s open to all students, all they have to do is register on the National Prayer Breakfast website. Youth will be able to participate in round-table and panel discussions designed to help them engage with their political leaders, talk about issues that concern them, and meet like-minded young people that are passionate about living out their relationship with Jesus Christ.
“We hope that people come away with a sense that there’s more to Ottawa and politics than just bickering and fighting and arguing all the time,” says Mr. Murta. “These people are real Canadians with strong faith that believe in God.”
The breakfast is an old tradition that has never had a specific goal. Mr. Murta says it’s just a gathering of like-minded people to celebrate their faith and leave politics at the door.
There is also a weekly prayer breakfast every Wednesday at 7 am, where politicians from all parties come together in faith. The annual breakfast is a bit of an offshoot from this decades-old tradition, says Mr. Murta.
New York, NY | June 5-8, 2019
(Must be a member of OIEC to attend. If any Canadian trustees are interested in attending as representatives of the CCSTA, please contact us for registration details.)
Every four years, the International Office of Catholic Education‘s (OIEC) World Congress brings together representatives from OIEC member groups around the world to discuss and celebrate Catholic education. Philippe Richard, Secretary General of OIEC, says the purpose is twofold.
“We gather to manifest the reality and vitality of the project of Catholic education in the world,” he says. “And to make commitments for the coming years.”
The 2019 World Congress theme will be “Educatio Si.” This can be translated to “be educated,” and it was chosen to symbolize the link between two guidelines of Catholic education: The United Nations’ Education 2030 Plan and Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si.” It shows the OIEC’s strong commitment towards the promotion of Catholic education across the world.
“It is about developing a new paradigm of Catholic education,” says Mr. Richard. “One of inclusive education, open to the culture of dialogue, fighting against climate changed, committed to the integral development of human beings and providing a source of hope for the world of today.”
The participants will work in themed labs presenting simple methods for creating innovations that schools can experiment with. These labs will be presented in English, French, and Spanish. A synthesis of each lab will be presented during the closing ceremony.
“Our goal is to achieve a certain number of commitments on themes such as: the inclusion and opening of schools to the poorest among us, the synergy between formal and non-formal education, the protection of children against all forms of abuse, and many more,” says Mr. Richard. “On all these questions, Catholic schools must become engaged and become prophets. The world is waiting.”
The OIEC’s goal is to gather at least 1,000 people from all around the world. Conference participants will represent around 210,000 schools in more than 100 countries that educate about 46 million students.
Mr. Richard’s final message is one of fellowship: “Let as many as possible gather together to participate in this Congress. Let’s show the world what a network of 210,000 schools educating 60 million students in more than 100 countries can do when it acts as a body of hope. We can transform the world through education.”