With more than 200 speakers and 40,000 attendees, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress offers a firsthand look at the diversity of people and opinions within the Catholic Church. But at this year’s congress, most publishers acknowledged at least one key commonality: an increase in sales. And in the midst of thousands of titles, it seems many readers are choosing to go back to basics. Several publishers stated that Bibles and scripture study resources were among their most popular products.
HarperOne showcased a redesigned edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition. The hardcover will be released in April and the flexibound in June. “Because we have had so much success with the NRSV Catholic bible, we wanted to further our presence in the Catholic world by publishing the NABRE,” said Nick Liao, Bible development manager for HarperOne. “It felt like a natural next step for us considering the Catholic authors we publish and the success we’ve had at the L.A. Congress.”
Liguori rolled out a new series that combines Bible study with the practice of prayerful reading known as lectio divina, including such titles as The Gospel of Mark: Revealing the Mystery of Jesus by William A. Anderson (June). “It’s set up to move people from the head to the heart,” said Father Mathew Kessler, a Redemptorist priest and the president and publisher of Liguori. “Readers can study what they’re going to pray and then pray what they study.” The series will include 21 books, released over the next three years.
Dan Smart, sales and marketing director for Twenty-Third Publications, confirmed the popularity of their scripture study products, such as the Threshold Bible Study series by Stephen J. Binz. “Interest in scripture-related materials has been increasing every year for us,” he said. “There’s more small-group faith-sharing going on in parishes, and adults meeting and breaking open the Word.”
The Bible has found renewed interest in the youth market as well. Image Books reported that their children’s Bibles were popular, and Ave Maria Press brought in John Bergsma, author of Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History (May) to converse with high school students.
Slightly more recent church history was also popular this year, as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. “We’ve had tremendous interest in all things Vatican II,” said Robert Byrns, director of sales for Paulist Press. He said their Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning (Mar.) by Massimo Faggioli received a great response. At Liturgical Press, Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II by Richard Gaillardetz (Feb.) also drew a great deal of interest.
Catholics also sought materials to enrich parish life. Our Sunday Visitor reported that curriculum items such as “Call to Faith,” a K-6 religious education program, and “Call to Celebrate,” a program for junior high students were popular. “What’s great about the L.A. Congress is there is such a wide variety of people and interests, everyone from catechists to D.R.E.s [directors of religious education] to pastors, and a lot of what we have fits right in,” said John Christensen, director of marketing and advertising for OSV.
Franciscan Media saw significant interest in Catholic Update Guide to Faithful Citizenship, which helps Catholics look more closely at the issues to consider before voting. The product has a newsletter and video component. The role of Catholics in the pews is also addressed in In the Name of the Church: Vocation and Authorization of Lay Ecclesial Ministry (Liturgical Press, May), edited by William J. Cahoy, which helps readers understand lay ministry as a vocation.
Authors with a focus on spirituality, family, and fun also remained big at this year’s Congress. Father James Martin’s book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life (HarperOne, 2011), was among the most popular, as was Father Leo Patalinghug’s book Grace Before Meals: Recipes and Inspiration for Family Meals and Family Life (Doubleday Religion, 2010).
Ave Maria Press is looking forward to the launch of the Catholic Mom brand this fall, which will include a series of books written by Catholic mothers, edited by Lisa Hendey. And Loyola Press presented Small Mercies: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life (April) by Nancy Jo Sullivan, which offers the author’s take on recognizing the presence of God, even when things are going poorly. “It’s not just about aging gracefully but gracefully approaching the second half of life,” said Andrew Yankech, business development manager for Loyola Press. “As a mother who lost a child with special needs and who has been through a divorce, her lived experience is something many other women can relate to.”