Los Angeles Religious Education Congress 2012 – Voice Infusing Life

The LA Religious Education Congress is an annual event and the largest in the United States. With over 30 workshops presented by over 200 speakers, the Congress draws speakers and participants from all over the world.  Brisbane Catholic Education has sent 18 staff including 16 long serving APREs to LA to be inspired and renewed by this once in a lifetime professional learning opportunity. Kerry Rush, Senior Education Officer: ResourceLink also travelled with the APRES – she shares some of her insights and experiences below.

LA Congress banner

Sr Edith Prendergast

Sr Edith Prendergast – click the image to read more.

Day 1 of the LA Religious Education Conference was like Pray 2010 on steroids. It took the eighteen of us some time to take in the enormity of experiencing 35000+ participants at one gathering.  The participants have come from most of the continents of the world, and all have some engagement with Religious Education in Catholic schools, parishes or families.   The colourful, multicultural opening rite and welcome, including the inspiring address of Sr Edith Prendergast, chief organizer of the RE congress,  paved the way for great things to come as the congress unfolded. Click here for YouTube of Edith’s Opening Address to the RE Congress.  We suggest you skip to 33.35 mins where she commences her address.

The program for the congress can be downloaded for further information.

Here is a brief summary of one of the workshops I attended on Day 1 from the smorgasbord of world class presentations.

Ronald Rolheiser; Recognising God’s Voice: The Cadence and Tone of the Voice of the Good Shepherd

Rolheiser cleverly used the context of shepherds and sheep in first century Palestine as an analogous device throughout his keynote address.   For sheep, knowing the tone and cadence of their shepherd’s voice meant life or death.   If they were tricked into following the mimicking voice of another shepherd it would mean certain death.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd knows his sheep but Rolheiser asks, can we distinguish God’s voice amongst the multitude of contesting voices?

Frequently the voices that beckon us, but are not of God, are those of grandness, indulgence, perpetuating woundedness, sickness, depression, ideologies, crowd speak/hysteria and obsession.  Religion was not exempted from the list, for sometimes it carries God’s voice and at other times, it fails. These voices can become a pervasive culture or the very air we breathe, promising life and happiness, but failing to deliver.

As a baby knows its mother’s voice and is awakened into love through the mother’s smiles and tenderness, so too we can become adept at hearing God’s voice and following the Good Shepherd home.

Rolheiser proposed seven ways or principles of the voice of God to help the confused and perplexed, which, on any given day, could be any of us.

God’s voice is:

1. Profound or subtle like thunder or as a gentle whisper. It comes and goes.

2.  Present in the Galilee and Jerusalem times, the good and the bad, both of which are privileged times.  God meets us front on and we hear God best in the fervour of our lives.  In particular God speaks to us through all that is whole and healthy or crushed and broken.

Ron Rolheiser

Ron Rolheiser – Click the image to go to his site.

3. Paradoxical. Through Baptism we are set apart yet we are submerged into humanity.

4. Deeply whole. God’s voice takes our soul home.

5. Challenging yet comforting.

6. Present. It enters as the greatest power and the greatest vulnerability.

7. Profound in times of joy and happiness.

It is the deep secret of faith to know God’s voice can ebb and flow.  Some days we hear the cadence and tone of God’s voice and we feel as though we can walk on water. Other days we cannot hear or we follow contesting voices like tricked sheep.

Rolheiser’s complete presentation can be viewed on the LA Congress YouTube channel here.

For those who are interested in hearing more speakers, many of the workshops are also on YouTube. Audio versions of other presentations are available for sale or download on the LA Congress website.



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