Catholic Guide to 2021

by | Jan 1, 2021 | Current Events, Events, Justice, Papal News, Pope Francis, The Jesuits

Happy New Year!

Let’s all collectively wave goodbye to 2020. Whew- what a year! As we welcome in 2021, this year has a lot in store, and not just the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines or the swearing in of the second Catholic President of the United States. Here at TJP, we wanted to offer you a list of some of the top Catholic events (online and in-person) to look forward to in 2021. 

Get out your calendars and add the following:

1. March for Life (January 29th in Washington, D.C.)

CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic

Beginning in 1974, the March for Life has been held every year in Washington D.C. near the date of January 22nd, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States. This year the event was moved a week later because of the presidential inauguration on January 20th. The March for Life will start at midday with a rally at the National Mall, followed by a march that ends at the steps of the Supreme Court.

In the midst of the pandemic, the March is still going to continue as planned in Washington D.C. But there are also dozens of local marches happening in January to allow people to participate without taking the risks of interstate travel. 

Georgetown University also hosts the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life every year on the day after the March for Life. This year’s conference will be conducted virtually, allowing people around the country to participate. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10.

2. FOCUS SEEK21 (February 4-7, live broadcast)


FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is a Catholic collegiate outreach program that sends recent college grads in teams of four missionaries to 170+ college campuses to lead Bible studies and engage the faith of students. Every two years, FOCUS hosts the SEEK Conference. When it was last held in 2019 in Indianapolis, over 17,000 participants attended.

This year’s event, SEEK21, will be a live broadcast experience rather than an in-person event. But it is specifically designed to be experienced in a group setting, so college students are encouraged to participate with their campus community, and others are encouraged to form small groups to participate together (while following appropriate safety measures). Along with tuning in for live events, small groups can organize plans to pray together, attend Mass, have discussions, and share meals.

Keynote speakers this year include international Catholic speaker Chika Anyanwu, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries Bishop Robert Barron, and Christian author and preacher Francis Chan.

3. Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 6-9, virtual gathering)

CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is organized by the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The event is typically hosted every year in Washington D.C. and draws 500-700 participants.

This year the event will be virtual, and the theme is “Make justice your aim (Isaiah 1:17): Rebuilding Together.” It will focus on the disparities revealed by COVID-19 and new models of justice and solidarity. There will be keynote speakers, workshops with policy experts, best practice-sharing, and even virtual advocacy visits with elected officials. Speakers this year include the Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Tagle, USCCB President Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, and professor from the Catholic Theological Union Dr. C. Vanessa White.

4. Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (February 18-21, virtual event)

CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Religious Education Congress (RECongress) is the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the U.S. with roughly 40,000 people attending. The RECongress is normally split into two parts: a youth day followed by three days for adults. This year the youth and adult component will be held together as the event will be offered virtually.

The theme for this year is “Proclaim the Promise,” inspired by the radical invitation to believe that our lives and our world are sustained by God’s promise (which hasn’t been as easy to believe in the middle of a pandemic). The event will include a variety of speakers and workshops in a mix of English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, along with diverse liturgies and prayer experiences, like a celebration of African American Saints and an Indigenous and First Peoples Prayer Service.

The keynote speakers include Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans Fernand J. Cheri, III, OFM, Sr. Teresa Maya, CCVI, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, founder of El Sembrador evangelical ministry Noel Diaz, and Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ.

5. Pope Francis to visit Iraq (March 5-8)

CNS photo/Vatican Media

After 15 months without international travel, Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to become the first pope to visit the Republic of Iraq. The itinerary is still pending, but he intends to visit the capital city Baghdad, the plain of Ur (named in the Bible as the hometown of Abraham), the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh, which stand near the former site of the ancient city of Nineveh.

The Christian presence in Iraq has diminished in the past twenty years. In the early 2000s, there were between 1-1.4 million Christians in the country. But after years of war and instability, including the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the number of Christians has been reduced to 300-400K. The country continues to face political instability and economic struggles, and there are over 1.7 million internally displaced people within Iraq. Pope Francis’s visit will cast a spotlight on these issues while offering hope to a country in turmoil.

6. National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention (April 6-8, live streaming)

CNS photo/Jeff Unroe

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) is the largest, private professional education association in the world, with membership of nearly 150,000 educators serving 1.7 million students in Catholic education. The NCEA focuses on leadership development in Catholic schools, professional development for teachers, and advocacy for Catholic school education.

Their national convention this year will be held virtually by providing a customized conference experience for each participant. Along with learning best practices from experts, there will be opportunities for networking with Catholic school educators across the country. Teachers or administrators at Catholic schools can sign up individually, and NCEA member schools can sign up collectively.

7. Vatican Conference (May 6-8 in Vatican City)

Photo courtesy of FlickrCC user Neil Howard

Hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Vatican Conference was started in 2011 under Pope Benedict XVI, and it is held every 2-3 years. It brings together the world’s leading physicians, scientists, faith leaders, ethicists, and philanthropists to discuss breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery, and prevention, along with the impact on culture and humanity from technological advances.

The theme for the 5th Vatican Conference will be “Exploring the Mind, Body, & Soul: Unite to Prevent & Unite to Cure.” It will be moderated by world-renowned journalists including Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN and Robin Roberts from “Good Morning America.” The diverse array of speakers includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CEO of Moderna Stéphane Bancel, the co-founder of Partners in Health Paul Farmer, and award-winning opera singer Renée Fleming.

8. Ignatian Year (May 20, 2021 – July 31, 2022)

Mosaic from Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, NYC

Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, the Superior General for the Jesuits, has declared an “Ignatian Year” for the global Society of Jesus. It will officially open on May 20th, 2021, which is the 500-year anniversary of when St. Ignatius was injured by a cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona while he was a soldier. His conversion to a life of holiness that led to the founding of the Jesuits began during his long convalescence from that injury.

Jesuit provinces and Jesuit apostolic works (including parishes, high schools, and universities) will be hosting events over the course of the Ignatian Year. The center of the year will be March 12th, 2022, which marks the 500-year anniversary of the canonization of both St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier. The Ignatian Year will officially conclude on the Feast of St. Ignatius, July 31st, 2022 (a little over one year for those who are counting!).

9. Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (November 6-8 in Washington, D.C.)

CNS photo/courtesy Ignatian Solidarity Network

Held annually in Washington D.C., the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) is the largest Catholic social justice gathering in the U.S. IFTJ brings together roughly 2,000 participants from the Ignatian family (mostly groups from Jesuit high schools and colleges, but many more, including TJP readers!).

The first two days of the Teach-In feature keynote speakers, breakout sessions, prayer and liturgy. Booths are set up outside the event hall, where you can find the smiling faces of TJP staff and pick up free swag! And don’t forget to catch Fr. James Martin, SJ, for a selfie! On the final day of the event, groups head to Capitol Hill to meet with representatives in Congress to advocate for policy changes, on such topics as immigration and criminal justice reform.

Last year’s event was held virtually, and the content will remain available online until June, so check it out. The hope remains to host IFTJ live in November, but details and a theme are still pending. Stay tuned!

10. National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) (November 18-20 in Indianapolis, IN)

CNS photo/Mike Krokos, The Criterion

The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) is a three-day event for youth and young adults held every two years and organized by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). During the conference, there is live music, prayer, workshops, opportunities for confession, and shared liturgy. The event is held in Indianapolis with over 20,000 people attending. In 2019, Pope Francis even recorded a message for the event.

The theme for 2021 is “Ablaze-Enciende El Fuego,” inspired by the Acts of the Apostles and the coming of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire. The emcees for this year’s event will be Sr. Miriam Heidland from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) and Brian Greenfield, a speaker and campus minister.

NFCYM is continuing to monitor the situation amid the pandemic, with hopes that the event can be held in person as planned. Let’s all hope for the best in 2021.


If those ten events aren’t enough to satiate your appetite, here are a few other events that might be of interest:


Brian Strassburger, SJ   /   All posts by Brian