Nearly 13,000 attendees, most of them college students, charged up their faith at SEEK2017, January 3 – 7, 2017, in San Antonio, Texas. The biennial event, hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), featured the theme “What Moves You.” Throughout the conference, attendees learned to see the truth of how God seeks them with sacrificial love and invites them to encounter Him with their whole hearts.
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Chicago natives Kelley, Lauren and Maggie Hartman experienced SEEK2017 in different ways. It was the first national FOCUS conference for each of these three sisters. Maggie, a senior at Harvard University studying pre-med and religion who will be a FOCUS missionary after graduation, said, “You can see Christ reflected in each person and how He desires to meet each of us individually.”
Her twin sisters Kelley and Lauren are freshman at University of South Alabama. Kelley added, “this has shown me there are 13,000 people with me with the same beliefs and goals as I have.” Lauren reflected, “It’s been life-changing to be a part of something larger and more powerful than I ever thought. I’m excited to go back to college to share my faith with others.”
Nearly 53,000 people have attended FOCUS events since the inaugural National Conference held in 1999, where 25 students came together to pray, deepen their Catholic faith and learn how to share Christ with others. SEEK2017 attendees came from more than 500 college campuses, and a few dozen international attendees hailed from several other countries. The largest campus contingent was from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with nearly 400 registrants.
“Our hope for SEEK2017 is that God will light a fire in the hearts of young leaders,” said Curtis Martin, CEO and founder of FOCUS. “Then as we return to our campuses all over the country, we can encourage one another to live as world-changers.”
Freshman Dai’Jon Brown came to SEEK2017 with the FOCUS group from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Brown is currently in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes. He said his experience at SEEK2017 was like no other: “[It] opened my eyes up to grow as an individual and showed me how to be a better man by being positive in all situations and lifting up my brothers and sisters.”
More than 300 priests concelebrated daily Mass. Adoration and confession throughout the event provided many opportunities for reflection and prayer. The Holy Spirit opened many hearts on Thursday night, with adoration in the main hall. That evening alone, more than 4,000 people went to confession. Over the course of the event, more than 6,000 confessed their sins to priests during the sacrament of reconciliation.
“I hope this week at SEEK2017 young adults experienced the Lord seeking each of them in a unique way,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. “When people experience that God is seeking them, they’ll be more likely to seek Him as well.”
Also at the conference, FOCUS presented the St. Joseph Award to Terry and Fran Combs as the 2017 recipients. The Combs have supported FOCUS for many years. The St. Joseph Award recognizes benefactors who have made a significant impact through the gifts of their time, talent and treasure. It is awarded to someone who embodies the ideals of philanthropy, leadership and volunteerism in service to the FOCUS mission.
Comedian Michael Jr. and folk rock band The Oh Hellos entertained the crowd. More than 35 speakers talked about relationships, discipleship and challenging topics on today’s college campus, including Sr. Miriam James Heidland, Sr. Bethany Madonna, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Mark Hart, John Leyendecker, Curtis Martin, John O’Leary and Dr. Edward Sri. Impact Session presenters included Fr. Philip Bochanski, Archbishop Chaput, Fr. Dave Dwyer, Fr. Michael Gaitley, Fr. Joshua Johnson, Fr. Robert Sirico, Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, Fr. Scott Traynor, Ryan Anderson, Audrey Assad, John Carmichael, Jeff Cavins, Kevin Cotter, Lisa Cotter, Leah Darrow, Paul Darrow, Crystalina Evert, Jason Evert, Matt Fradd, Jackie Francois, Jennifer Fulwiler, Dr. Tim Gray, Dr. Scott Hahn, Marcel LeJeune, Patrick Lencioni, Dr. Jonathan Reyes and Sarah Swafford. Many of the talks will be available in a few weeks for digital download at www.shopfocus.org.
Sponsors included Benedictine College (Partner Sponsor), Augustine Institute (Partner Sponsor), Alliance Defending Freedom (Official Sponsor) and the Liturgical Institute (Official Sponsor).
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) was founded in 1998 and invites college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, more than 550 missionaries are serving full-time on 125 college campuses, located across 38 U.S. states and in two pilot locations in Austria. More than 20,000 FOCUS alumni have been prepared to evangelize parishes throughout the U.S. Within this number, more than 600 have made decisions to pursue Catholic religious vocations. By 2022, FOCUS expects to launch 75,000 alumni into America’s 17,000+ Catholic parishes. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. To learn more, visit us at www.focus.org.
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