By Madi Field/Freelance Writer, OND
Indianapolis – From Jan. 3-7, nearly 17,000 people including over 400 priests from across the United States traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana for a conference put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Participants from Minnesota State University, Moorhead; North Dakota State University, Fargo; University of Mary, Bismarck; and Bemidji State University attended SEEK2019. FOCUS hosts a large SEEK conference every other year and a Student Leadership Summit (SLS) for training and formation in between.
This year’s theme was “Encounter Something More.” Some of the best Catholic speakers were brought in to highlight the subtheme of each day: purpose, love, encounter, follow and share. Everyone came together in the morning for Holy Mass followed by a day of events including a large-scale game of Family Feud, men’s and women’s sessions, breakout sessions with various topics and speakers, adoration, confession and time to visit with dozens of Catholic organizations. The atmosphere was full of life as people encountered the living God and met various priests and religious orders from around the United States.
Megan Jones, originally from Bemidji, Minnesota, has been a missionary with FOCUS for three years and is currently serving in Nashville, Tennessee.
“As a missionary, SEEK is an incredible time to accompany our students as they experience the conference,” said Jones.
Students choose to attend SEEK for many reasons, such as setting aside a time to encounter God, learn, grow, have fun, meet Catholic role models and build authentic friendships with other Catholics.
Megan Fuglseth, originally from Fertile, Minnesota, is a student at University of Mary. She enjoyed attending SLS2018 last year and said, “I have seen the fruits of this on my own college campus, and it has convicted my heart to never stop evangelizing, to never stop growing the Church, and to always make sure my friendships are authentic and leading others closer to Christ. I decided to attend SEEK2019 because I wanted to continue encountering the Lord with others on my campus, and from that encounter, to start investing in the relationships I would form with those attending the conference.”
Alexander Burkel, of Badger, Minnesota, is a student from Bemidji State. He did not have a strong desire to attend SEEK2019, but after the conference he said, “It's hard to put into words and explain something that opened your eyes wider than you thought they could open.” When asked about his favorite talk he said, “Deacon Harold-Burke Sivers gave a talk about what being a man is, and why the Church needs more strong Catholic men. I used to think I was an aspiring Catholic man but I was barely scratching the tip of the iceberg. God certainly spoke to me through him and was reminding me of the ways I am called to become a man instead of staying a boy.”
After lunch each day, there was free time to pray at the all-day Adoration chapel, go to confession or visit vendor booths before attending a breakout session. The variety of breakout topics was beneficial to the students. Topic included: discernment, suffering and healing, addictions, abortion, praying with people, the Mass and many more. Fuglseth’s favorite talk was titled “The Virgin Mary: The Masterpiece of God,” delivered by Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception Donald Calloway.
“The main takeaway that I got from Father Calloway's talk was the importance of developing a relationship with Mary,” she said.
The evening session Jan. 5 included Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was a favorite part for many retreatants who had powerful experiences of confession whether they attend regularly or have not gone in years.
“I had never realized that I wasn't participating in reconciliation to its fullest until that day, and I know it was one of the best confessions I've ever given,” said Burkel.
SEEK2019 was also a powerful time for priests.
“From my perspective, I saw a lot of people who were falling in love with Jesus Christ! Some for the first time, others it was a renewal. My favorite part would be gathering with others to pray for and with them: gathering with the priests to pray for the time in adoration and confession, gathering with students to pray for their needs, and gathering with leaders to pray for their ministries. It was a beautiful sense of life, love, and joy,” said Father Nate Brunn, Parochial Vicar of St. Joseph, Moorhead.
The last day’s subtheme was “share” to prepare students for their return to campus. Fuglseth was filled with zeal as she left the conference.
“I get to take everything we have learned, experienced, and encountered over the past week, and we get to actually apply it to our lives. We get to choose how we are going to make changes in our lives,” Fuglseth said.
“I thought that it was a great conference! The keynotes were very well done and very professional,” Father Brunn said. “I have seen a sense of joy in the students. Upon our return, those who went have been talking about how great of an experience it was for them.”