Diocesan News

More than 17,000 attend SEEK conference

Story by Reagan Scott

Indianapolis (SNR) - More than 17,000 people attended SEEK, a five-day conference hosted by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students Jan. 3- 7 in Indianapolis.

This year’s theme, “Encounter Something More,” was geared toward encouraging all to be missionary disciples by hearing, feeling, and sharing the light of Christ and joy of the Gospel, according to the organization.

Of the 17,000 in attendance, there were nearly 12,000 college students representing 626 campuses, as well as students from other countries. 

Jaz Ocampo, a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said, “Being around so many young Catholics all in one place made me realize that I’m not alone in this journey here on earth. It reminded me that there are so many people my age thirsting for the love of Christ just as much as I am.”

The group departing from the University of Nebraska, the largest at the conference, included approximately 300 students from UNL and 25 students from Wesleyan. Ten FOCUS missionaries from the school were also in attendance.

A group of high school students also departed from Lincoln with 27 students from Pius X, 18 students from Aquinas in David City, three students from Bishop Neumann in Wahoo and 12 from Lourdes Central in Nebraska City.

The conference began Jan. 3 with Mass and keynotes from Curtis Martin, the founder of FOCUS, and Leah Darrow, an internationally renowned speaker.

Days two through four started with Mass concelebrated by more than 400 priests. Mass was followed by men’s and women’s sessions for college students and talks for those on the conference’s Lifelong Mission and Campus Ministry tracks.  These tracks, geared toward those wanting to be missionary disciples in families, parishes and careers, and chaplains and campus ministers, included more than 2,200 people. 

The afternoons featured two breakout sessions, and attendees had the opportunity to hear from any of 10 different speakers for each one. The topics covered everything from Church teaching to learning to deal with suffering.

Evenings included keynotes presented by Dr. Scott Hahn, Sister Miriam James Heidland, Jason Evert, Sister Bethany Madonna, Dr. Edward Sri and Chris Stefanick.

The most popular evenings included Adoration and Confession Night, during which 4,700 confessions were heard, and the fourth night, when Matt Maher and NEEDTOBREATHE performed.

Victoria Fassett, a FOCUS missionary at UNL, said, “SEEK is an incredible opportunity to encounter Christ in a new way both through the talks given, the friendships you make, and the experience of Adoration with 17,000 other people.”
The final day started with keynotes from Father Mike Schmitz and Jennifer Fulwiler, and ended with Mass.

For many of the students in attendance, SEEK allowed them to be reenergized in their faith, and begin the spring semester closer to God.

John Katzmarek, a junior at the University of Nebraska said, “I went on SEEK my freshman year and went again this year to continue to grow in my faith. All of the talks and information kind of bled together into one big spiritual experience.”

Will Stokebrand, another junior at the university said that SEEK ignited a fire within him. He said he was reminded of a quote from Mirianne Williamson who wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Many SEEK attendees were greatly impacted by their time in Indianapolis and the encounters that they had with God. They are returning to their campuses ready to share the love of Christ and change the world.

Father Robert Matya, the pastor for the UNL Newman Center said, “In the short time we’ve been back it’s obvious that the conference has had an impact on the lives of our students. We even have some coming back to the Church.”

Fassett reflected on the impact that the conference has had saying, “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure, and SEEK is an opportunity to see the abundance of joy that’s available when we live life with Christ.”

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