ANAHEIM—Thousands of Catholics from the Diocese of San Bernardino were among the more than 40,000 who gathered together March 15-19 for the LA Religious Education Congress.
With over 300 workshops and 200 speakers, topics ranged from self-development to art to spirituality. This year, the 61st annual Congress, offered 14 different Eucharistic Liturgies. There were free exhibits, including nearly 600 booths, free entertainment, and sacred spaces. To kick off the event, some 15,000 youth gathered on Thursday for the annual Youth Day.
Youth between the ninth and twelfth grade from and across all of Southern California came together to worship and celebrate their faith. The theme “Dare to Believe!” was taken from the readings of that day. Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrated Mass for the youth, going over the readings of Moses and his faith in God, amongst sin. The theme was dedicated to the diversity of the youth attending, uniting them to reflect on topics such as the death penalty and immigration. But further, the theme spoke to keeping faith through trials, through deserts, and not just the good times.
The soul purpose of the event was not only to build excitement and deepen the youth’s faith, but to build community. Being surrounded by others growing in their faith, it is encouraging for the youth.
“I like how people like us, young Catholics, come together. I am such an outgoing person that it truly brings me joy, to praise God like everybody else,” says Kennedy Alvarez, a parishioner of Our Lady of Assumption Church in San Bernardino.
Chika Anyanwu, Youth Day presenter and former parishioner of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga, emphasized the continual walk with Christ after Youth Day.
“The really great thing about Youth Day is that we come together and we see that there are thousands and thousands of other teens, other Catholic teens, who are looking to meet God, to encounter God in a deeper way,” said Anyanwu. “It may be called Youth Day but its not just for a day, it’s for a lifetime of encountering Christ, a lifetime of constant conversion back to the Lord. Any time we fall away, it is our joy to come back to Him, and he is willing to accept us with open arms. Youth Day is not just a day; it is a life long adventure with God.”