Three years ago, as I walked into the doors of my first SEEK conference as a sophomore in college, I had no idea of the wild, untapped adventure to which the Lord was calling me to. I remember the overwhelming presence of Jesus Christ through Adoration for the very first time amongst the thousands. After this experience, there was this obvious fire I felt inside of me as I left the conference.
I vividly recall the burning desire I had to share what I learned with everyone I knew. I wanted to share it because I knew what I had just experienced was true. It was a fire that soon would lead me to know the Lord’s friendship, lead others to Him and eventually say, “yes” to being a FOCUS missionary.
This year’s FOCUS conference, SEEK22, gathered over 22,000 people across the world. Through keynote speakers, small group discussions, Adoration and Mass, they encountered Jesus Christ in radical and tangible ways. Here are the top 5 highlights from SEEK22:
Fr. Mike Schmitz’s challenge
In the final keynote at SEEK22, Fr. Mike Schmitz, chaplain at the University of Minnesota Duluth and host of The Bible in a Year podcast, shared a powerful testament to the urgency of saving lives. “We are not here to just help people, our call is to save lives.” He challenged all of us to “not let what Jesus did go to waste on me or stop with me.”
In his talk, Father Mike’s challenges each one of us to ask, “who are the people in my life that Jesus is asking me to save?” “Who are the people in my life who need to hear the Gospel?” “Are we still in the life-saving business?”
Saving grace of the sacraments
SEEK22 gatherings were held around the world. I’m a FOCUS missionary at University of Iowa, so the students I serve attended the All Iowa SEEK22 event in Des Moines, along with more than 500 students from campuses across Iowa. Each day of the conference, we had the opportunity to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Students lined the convention center to receive the graces of confession, while also getting the chance to accept the graces of God through the 30+ prayer team volunteers. We were also blessed to have Eucharistic adoration.
“A taste of Heaven – that’s what I experienced,” said Kobe Eischeid, one of the other FOCUS Missionaries at University of Iowa. “It was indescribable to be witness to the glory of God in the Eucharistic procession. Each face adoring Him representing a unique soul. One by one, tension falling off the shoulders of those attending, as each one was able to let go. I was able to fall in love with Jesus a little more each and every time. Viva Cristo Rey.”
Iowa’s SEEK22 was blessed with multiple priests and two bishops who celebrated Mass. More than 25 bishops participated in the many SEEK22 events around the world, including ones in Monterrey, Mexico and Bogotá, Columbia.
In college, it’s more important than ever to be challenged and inspired by peers striving to live a virtuous life. The All Iowa event was a unifying experience. Students made new connections through the small group discussion with peers from their campus, while also meeting new friends from other surrounding schools, such as University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Loras, Drake University and University of Northern Iowa.
As we return to campus, we’ll continue to foster these connections and grow in accountability through Bible studies, invitations to Adoration and Mass, and many other activities like “Identity,” the University of Iowa Newman Catholic Student Center’s Spring Retreat.
Called to action
Students with pressing questions of identity were met and challenged with the wisdom of the 20+ keynote and impact speakers such as Jason Evert, calling men to walk into their true masculinity through “cleansing their own interior temples.”
Sr. Bethany Madonna gave witness to the truth of the feminine heart, sharing, “we find ourselves in the gift of ourselves.” These talks inspired conversations that will now be taken back to the college campus as students were given tangible ways to live out how God created them to be.
SEEK 22 was not just for college students! Dioceses throughout the country have utilized SEEK conferences to enhance community building and leadership. Participants from more than 1,600 parishes signed up for SEEK22.
Fr. Brian Lager, FOCUS alum and pastor at Sacred Heart in Colby, Kansas, shared, “SEEK22 gave our parish the opportunity to come together for fellowship, prayer, and to have open honest conversations about where we are as a parish and how we can move forward in Apostolic mission. Through the talks and small group discussions throughout the weekend, the parishioners felt empowered to take on the missionary habits of growing deeper in their relationship with God, to begin forming intentional friendships for the glory of good and the good of the Church.”
A number of parishes are choosing to host SEEK events later this month. Registration is still available on the SEEK22 At Your Parish web page.