Lincoln Diocese group among 12,000 attending conference in San Antonio
Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) — More than 12,000 students, benefactors, priests, seminarians and religious sisters attended the bi-annual SEEK conference in San Antonio, Texas Jan. 3-7.
The conference, put on by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), had the largest attendance of any SEEK conference in the past. In fact, the event has grown so large that the problem going into the future is finding a venue big enough to hold all of the students who attend.
The group departing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was one of the largest to make the trek to the conference, with 358 students from UNL, 33 from surrounding campuses, 14 missionaries, six Christ the King Sisters and three priests, according to Maggie Otlewski, a two-year FOCUS missionary at UNL.
High school seniors are also able to attend SEEK and Molly Milana, the director of campus ministry at Pius X High School in Lincoln took 36 students from Pius and seven from Aquinas High School in David City.
The group traveled by bus to San Antonio, an 18-hour trip that lasted through the night. The group arrived in a much warmer San Antonio at 2 p.m. Jan. 3 and the conference began with Mass at 5:00 that evening.
“It was amazing to participate in the Mass with 12,000 other people who also want to strengthen their relationship with God! The experience was surreal,” Rilee Sukup, a freshman at Nebraska Wesleyan University, said.
Mass that evening was followed by talks from keynote speakers Mark Hart and John O’Leary.
That evening’s events allowed students to “choose their own adventure,” whether it be listening to the Marie Miller Band, competing in challenge events with Wyoming Catholic College or attend a comedy night event with comedian Michael Jr.
Each morning of the conference began with Mass, followed by “What moves you…” sessions that were split between men and women. Each day focused on a different theme, based on what moved people as they were made to be, in their relationships, and in the world.
The speakers for these talks included Lou Holtz, Leah Darrow, Crystalina Evert, Jason Evert, Lisa Cotter and Father Josh Johnson.
After the talks each morning, students had time to eat lunch, followed by two impact sessions, where they were able to choose among different speakers who gave talks on a wide variety of topics.
The evenings all featured keynote speakers Father Mike Schmitz, Sister Bethany Madonna, Mark Hart, John Leyendecker, Dr. Edward Sri, Sister Miriam James Heidland and president of FOCUS, Curtis Martin.
“Each speaker, in their own special way, spoke to us about their topic,” David Cao, a junior at UNL, said. “Not only are they experts in their fields, but they also spoke to us in a way that evoked love.
“The way they talked to us showed that they not only wanted us to know the truth but also to love God,” he continued. “They weren’t just talking to say things, it was their heartfelt desire for us to know this.”
On Thursday, Jan. 5, SEEK attendees were able to experience Eucharistic Adoration and go to confession. Thousands of students attended confession with hundreds of priests and were able to spend time with Jesus in prayer.
For many, the experience was just one of many that made the conference so special.
Maureen Winter, a freshman at UNL said, “The amount of love I felt during the entire convention was incredible. I knew that Jesus loves me and that I am his daughter and he rejoices over me.”
Cao too felt God working during the event.
“It’s indescribable because God works much differently with 10 people versus 10,000 people,” he said.
As a FOCUS missionary, Otlewski had her own perspective to share.
She said, “As missionaries, we know that it is so important for college students to step out of their everyday routine and see thousands of their peers chasing after Christ and becoming alive in their faith.
“An experience like SEEK can help light that fire that will continue to burn once they return to campus. We consistently see FOCUS conferences bearing so much fruit as students share their experience with friends and family at home,” she said.