I write this as I am sitting outside by the hotel pool, enjoying some sunshine as we’re waiting for our airport shuttle pick-up (you gotta love the free wireless). In less than an hour, we will be making our way back to LAX, and beginning the journey home. I thought it may be fitting to offer some initial reflections from this weekend.
LA Congress in General: Wow… As my fourth Congress draws to a close, I am left with quite a bit to process. This is probably the first year that I didn’t become completely overwhelmed by Congress, but do to a conscious awareness of my boundaries. I ended up skipping out of 3 of my 8 workshops, as well as not really spending a lot of time walking the exhibit floor. I spent two workshops sleeping, and the last one I missed to have lunch with some friends. I really felt like I spent this time taking care of my needs, rather than getting a lot of out of the experience. I have been here three years before and I’ll likely be back next year. I saw the speakers that I wanted to see, have quite a bit to ponder, but I feel a sense of being relaxed as well. While I am not looking forward to begin another busy week, I feel more rested and healthy coming back from this Congress.
Coming with a large group: After the first year I came here, I was able to convince friends of my to return with me, one by one. This year, not only did we have four people from Fort Collins going, but we also had 5 students from New Mexico, as well as making connections with many other students in the Southern California area. We had three hotel rooms full of people, and I think that also added to a lot of my desire to find rest and take care of myself. I loved having everyone there, but there was also a sense of chaos when all of us were together in the rooms. I laughed a lot, had a lot of fun, had a lot of great discussions, but I didn’t sleep as much or as well as I would have hoped. It was really interesting to vicariously watch Congress unfold through their eyes, and through their experiences I felt re-energized and enthusiastic.
My Workshops: Out of the five workshops that I went to, I found them to be very challenging. Each previous year that I went to Congress, I always came with some sort of mission in mind. One year it was music ministry, another year it was working on confirmation. This year, I really had a clean slate and a sense of openness. I signed up for a bunch of random workshops and really didn’t have any occurring theme. The workshops were very random, but also very challenging and left me with quite a bit to think about.
The first workshop I attended talked about evaluation your parish leadership structure, talking a lot about Pastoral Councils and styles of leadership. I found the information very intriguing, but given the status of things at John XXIII, I really didn’t see any possibility of applying what I had learned. While I was very inspired, I was disappointed that I won’t be able to apply any of my knowledge.
The second workshop I attended dealt with the three marriages in life: work, self & to another. I really appreciated some of the imagery in the workshop, but I really didn’t feel like I could really connect well. The speaker provided some very poetic and descriptive imagery to wrap some words around some things I’m struggling with, but at the same time he didn’t really speak to me the way I really needed to hear things.
My third workshop talked a lot about "Growing up in faith". The speaker, while excellent, made some very challenging statements about the differences between a child-like faith and an adult faith. Going through his list, I was able to pinpoint a lot of different areas, and where I fit into those relative areas. He also brought into perspective the fact that our leaders (clergy) within the Church need to also "grow up in faith", and adopt a model where we identify ourselves with Christ the person, rather than the institution of Church Dogma. Definitely more to ponder about this one…
My fourth session was a thought-provoking panel discussion about Homosexuality and Celibacy. The perspectives offered were very challenging, and I found myself agreeing with most of what was said. They talked about how the Church has been pretty ineffective in pinpointing the actual issues in the abuse scandal: rather than looking at the core issue of pedophilia and the patterns of abuse, many Church officials blame homosexuality. They also brought a lot of clarity about the recent news from the Vatican about Homosexuality and the Institution, and I also appreciated that they offered a lot of solutions to dealing with the issues. I definitely am left with more to think about this as well.
My final session was very light-hearted and turned out to be a great way to end Congress: covering "Movies that will send your spirit free". The speaker talked about 6 mainstream movies and some of the different ways they could connect to faith. I’ve been to many movie/media presentations before, and what I appreciated was some of the "higher-level" perspective that was offered during this presentation. I ended up buying his book after his session. I’m very anxious to read over his list of "50 movies that matter".
Spending… I’m pleased with the amount I spent, or rather the amount that I didn’t spend during the conference. Aside from my annual greeting card reloading, I only bought the aforementioned book, as well as a gift for Bethany. This probably is largely due to the fact that I am handling all of the hotel and NCSC reception costs, and while people are helping cover costs, I still have this fear that I’m putting a lot more on my credit card than I currently think. I’m anxious to get home and do the book-keeping for this weekend… Probably won’t be good.
So as I am getting ready to depart from Anaheim/Los Angeles and head back home, I am grateful for my wonderful experiences this weekend, but I also am anxious to be back home.