The Religious Education Congress, popularly known as RECongress, offers attendees over 300 workshops, various liturgies, and lunchtime and evening concerts.
The most visited location throughout Congress weekend is the Exhibit Hall. The environment of the exhibit hall almost gives you a sense of a mall, a Catholic mall. The hall offers booths for all things Catholic and information for all types of church ministries. Are you looking for a prayer book? There is a booth for the book you need and perhaps even a Rosary. Interested in more information about religious life? There are booths with holy men and women ready to answer the questions you have about your vocation. Perhaps you are interested in meeting the new Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, well there was a booth for that too!
Each year the Diocese of San Bernardino participates in the Exhibit Hall by providing a booth for parishioners from within our Diocese and for all those attending RECongress. Every time a person steps into the booth, they are greeted by a friendly face from the Diocesan Pastoral Center ready to welcome them and assist them. Anna Hamilton, Associate Director of the Office of Restorative, is one of those friendly faces.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet the people,” Hamilton said. “We often interact with parish offices only and being at the booth allows us to encounter the people that make up the Church and provide them with resources.”
For some parishioners within our Diocese, RECongress is the only time of the year that they have this opportunity to meet one-on-one with the Diocesan staff.
Cristina Castillo, Parish Ministry Formation Program (PMFP) Coordinator for the Department of Ministry Formation Institute says, “It gives a sense of Christmas; you have the opportunity to see people you don’t see on a regular basis and it becomes a yearly reunion.”
While many look forward to asking their questions or finding a flyer for a new event to attend, others gather in excitement to meet Bishop Gerald Barnes and our Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas. Overwhelming joy filled the booth with the many faithful greeting both Bishop Barnes and Coadjutor Bishop Rojas.
A parishioner from St. Oscar Romero passing by shared, “I come to Congress every year, and every year I stop by the booth to say hello to Bishop Barnes. This year I asked for his blessing for my statue of Our Lady of Fatima that I just purchased.”
Parish ministers, college students, and families lined up waiting to meet their new diocesan shepherd, enthusiastic about sharing with him their lives, their families, their ministries and capturing the moment with a picture.
The Diocesan Booth in the Exhibit Hall is not only a point of resources while attending RECongress but rather, a gathering place where people feel heard, meet new people, and take a picture or two. If you are at RECongress next year and find yourself in the Catholic mall, stop by the Diocese of San Bernardino Booth, a place where all are welcome.
Reyna Villanueva is the Administrative Secretary for the Diocesan Office of Ministry with Young Catholics.