“I’m sorry to interrupt your prayer.” A voice broke into the peacefulness of the room. “The Fire Marshal has informed us that the length of the confession line has become a fire hazard. Please refrain from joining the line until it becomes significantly shorter. Thank you.”
I never thought I’d witness a scene like this. But then I went to SEEK 2017.
Right before the start of the spring semester, a group of students from Thomas More College joined 13,000 young adults to attend SEEK, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) biennial conference. The conference took place in San Antonio, Texas, from January 3-7. Some highlights were men and women’s talks, break-out sessions, an adoration night, and fun activities like concerts, a comedian, and an ’80s dance.
Growing in your faith during college is hard. For me, it’s a struggle to put forth the initiative and energy to build my relationship with God and a community with those around me. I needed a push, a burst of energy, some tools to expand my knowledge and love of my faith. I somehow didn’t expect this; I thought it would be just another retreat, a nice experience.
I was wrong. It was exactly what I needed.
TMC students met in small groups every afternoon to discuss how the retreat was going. During these meetings, we reflected on our experiences and where we were encountering Christ. “Seek what moves you” was the theme of the week; and SEEK gave us the encouragement and resources we needed to push out in this new semester and move towards holiness.
Each person’s experience was unique. Jacob Hensley ’19 has gone to Catholic school his whole life. “I always felt like I knew facts about my faith but did not really understand what it was all about,” he explained. “SEEK helped me to understand what it really means to be Catholic.” Another student, Savannah Frank ’17, pointed out that “we didn’t have to be Catholic to grow in our faith. I learned a lot of Catholicism, but I also was able to grow as a non-denominational Christian.” Brooke Schleben ’17 had never attended a retreat like SEEK. She confided, “I was pretty nervous and scared to come because it was out of my comfort zone, but it was amazing.”
Prominent Catholic speakers such as Mark Hart, Lisa Cotter, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sarah Swafford, Leah Darrow, John O’Leary, Dr. Edward Sri, and many more, taught us about the faith and how to live it in our daily lives. “They speak to both the head and the heart and do so with love and respect,” said Greg Warner ’17. “The speakers knew how to relate to everyone in the room and gave phenomenal advice to carry out your daily life,” acknowledged Joanna Roessler. Kristin Klocke ’17 agreed, “The speakers were so inspirational and on fire with their faith and this enthusiasm was contagious. It spread to everyone who was present at SEEK and made us want to share our faith with all who we encountered.”
The evening of adoration and confession was particularly impactful. “It was so overwhelming to pray together with 13,000 other college students,” said Kristin, “all the while knowing that when it comes to my relationship and conversation with God, it’s as if no one else in the room matters, it’s just Him and me.” The SEEK band played meditative music during a beautiful Eucharistic procession. It was a beautiful time to pray about what we’d heard and plan how to apply it when we went back home.
“I am ready to take the lessons I have learned from SEEK and apply them to my everyday life, especially my prayer life and in my relationships with others.” – Caroline Middendorf ’19
For me, SEEK was not only a motivation to keep working, but also a reminder that it’s not all my work. God is the mover. Living my faith is not a checklist that I can complete, but a relationship: I need to be open to simply receive God’s love moment to moment. “O draw me, Lord,” a hymn says, “and I’ll run after you.” God is madly in love with me, continually pouring down gifts upon me, in the people I see, in the opportunities and problems I face, in the world surrounding me. My part is to respond by receiving in gratitude, by falling in love with Him.
“My favorite part of the SEEK conference,” Courtney Neltner ’17 concluded, “was that it was a chance for us to see that the Catholic Church is not dead, that some 13,000 young adults cared enough about their faith to travel to Texas—from nearby states all the way to us in Kentucky, and as far away as New York and Austria. The sight of so many bowing their head in prayer for adoration is an amazing sight and one that I wish those who are losing hope in my generation would see.” This powerful sign of growth is a source of encouragement to the Catholic Church as a whole, but it is also a personal one for me; I am not alone in my journey towards Christ.
What is “SEEK”?
SEEK is more than just a national conference, it is an invitation to college students everywhere to explore life’s bigger questions: who we are, where we’re going, and what we seek along the journey. Hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), this conference encourages all students to come explore what they truly seek: to learn about the faith, to share in friendship, to be encouraged in their unique vocation and to experience the love, hope and the very real presence of Jesus Christ through His Church.
For five days every other year, SEEK gathers thousands of college students together from all across the country for a time of prayer, fellowship, engaging talks, inspiring entertainment and, most importantly, a chance to encounter Christ in a life-changing way. In 2017, the SEEK conference took place in San Antonio, Texas, from January 3-7. Thomas More College students and chaperones made the trek to take part in this one-of-a-kind event where faith takes center stage for five glorious days.