Thoughts from a 40,000-person Catholic Conference

I just spent 2.5 days at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress which is the biggest event of its type in the US. There are 100s of speakers, musicians, Masses in Indonesian, Spanish, Vietnamese and more, over 45,000 in attendance (like me), 250 vendors and three people with placards outside telling us we are all going to hell. I’d like to share a few thoughts as I wait at my gate at LAX, wondering if TMZ’s photogs are looking for me. I’m going to talk about a common theme I heard in the talks I attended, about 3 strange things I saw for sale and about some cool moments I had of encountering new and old friends.

Something I heard Over and Over

Be Creative, Stop Stalling, Stop being Afraid and Don’t Listen to Those Who Think You Have No Right to Create

tr3This is a common theme I heard a lot this weekend. I think it is something I needed to hear. At the film showcase, I was asked if I am a filmmaker. After several shy attempts to apologize and say no, not really, some legit filmmakers (I mean like Hollywood Catholic legit) told me to own it. Well, I am making a documentary about women religious who have served the poor.I’ve interviewed almost 20 people in FL, PA and HI. This week I’ll be editing it from morning until night to get a draft ready to show next week. Yeah, you know what, I am making a film. I’m owning that. I am doing it. Same goes with writing. Yeah, I do write a blog. Yeah, I did write the 80 questions in a book of reflections that was published last year so, heck, I’m going to own that too. There are those who have tried to pull me down and did not want me to do my thing from writing to talking about St. Francis to putting together a film. They can do their own thing, they can own their own creativity and start making stuff. I’m owning mine.

3 Strange Things I saw for Sale at the L.A. Religious Education Congress

  1. Beer Koozies with their logo. What a delightfully frivolous souvenir! And, it owns that we are beer drinkers and we like our beer the American way-cold. Being Catholic and American has never fit together so well. I wish now I’d bought one.tr1
  2. Candle Dispenser. You’ve seen the new drink machines that use a robotic arm to deliver goods to you? Well, here’s  a solution for churches which sell a LOT of candles. I was pleased to see this invention and imagined taking it back in time to the great shrines of Europe in the middle ages. People would go nuts for it!
  3. Dolls wearing religious habits. Okay, I’m just going to be blunt. This is weird. They sell them at the Eucharistic Congress in my own Diocese, too. Who buys these? Does the buyer’s remorse kick in, like, immediately? These are weird and creepy.

People from my Past I ran Intotr2

I ran into a friar I’d met in NY about 4 years ago, a nun I’d met in the Marshall Islands about 13 years ago, a recruiter for a grad school who I met 2 years ago, a publisher who told me he’d deliver a copy of the book I edited to Richard Rohr today (!), reps from my old grad school at Fordham, a guy who grows bees & makes candles from their wax, someone from Tonga (!), and a Californian who wants to retire in NC. I met a hundred others, but, you get the idea.

I’ll be Back!

I will def. be returning to the LA Congress.  Speakers and Masses were uplifting and challenging, as an independent, lay woman in ministry, it was a balm to my soul to meet 100s of other lay people who are each doing their small part in the world and I loved the Hawai’ian folks I shared a house with thanks to my Franciscan pal Sister Cheryl Wint. It was an A+ event. I even got to share an airport shuttle with a Catholic Celebrity who wrote  and led the music for the Black Culture Mass! His name is W. Clifford Petty and he is a legend. Heck, he told me on the ride to the airport that Gladys Knight invited him to the grand opening of her Atlanta restaurant! This was after I suggested we rewrite the song “Midnight Train to Georgia” for his day today, calling it, “Mid-day Flight to Alabama”… Uh oh, I gotta run, TMZ spotted me…