St. Louis hosted the SEEK23 Conference at the America’s Center Convention Complex earlier this month. The conference is sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). More than 17,000 people from around the world were in attendance, including thousands of college students; hundreds of priests, seminarians and men and women religious; dozens of bishops; and hundreds of Catholic post-college men and women. The days were filled with Mass, workshops, dynamic speakers, sacramental and worship opportunities and entertainment — all to encourage an encounter with Jesus. It was a week packed with fun, fellowship and faith. Here are some of my highlights from the workshops:
Making Missionary Disciples • Jesus invested in 12 men and asked them to share their faith with others. In making disciples, our focus should be not on the total number of disciples made but on the intensity of the flame within the disciples. Our standard of success should be not be based on how many people came to be fed, but how many people are going out to help feed others. The model is based on Jesus’ model. Win: lead souls to encounter Jesus. Build: personally invest in people and accompany them on their faith journey. Send: each of us is called to “go and make disciples.”
Marriage • Edward Sri retold the following story from the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI regarding his insight into the wedding at Cana. The first wine served at the wedding was great. This is similar to marriage: Our initial love is great, but after some time, it may fade. The second wine, the wine made by Jesus, is far superior to the first. Similarly, when Jesus is part of our marriage, the union is stronger and deeper. Sri added that in marriage one of the best things we can do is to be grateful for our spouse and always assume a positive intent from our spouse. When our spouse stumbles, how do we respond? Do I love more or do I withdraw my love? God brings our imperfections to the surface so that they can be healed.
Parenting • Mike and Alicia Hernon talked about building a path of holiness for your family. The breakdown of the family over the decades has helped lead to the decline of the Church. To rebuild the Church, we need to rebuild the family. Parents need God’s mercy to help raise their kids. If you want to be a great parent, you have to be a great spouse. Every child needs to be loved individually and passionately. Create a family culture that will positively impact your children.
Spiritual Warfare • Jessica Navin gave insights into spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is an everyday occurrence, but it usually goes unnoticed because this is a battle primarily for your mind. One of the devil’s major tools is discouragement — making people feel powerless and losing hope. How do we fight back? Live a holy life — know your weaknesses and ask God for help, go to confession regularly and conform your mind to the mind of Jesus by reading the Bible.
The biggest highlight, though, was celebrating daily Mass with 17,000 joyous Catholics. It was an incredible experience. It’s hard to sing some of the songs when your eyes are welled up with tears and you are too choked up with joy that the words can’t come out.
If you missed this year’s conference, there is good news! FOCUS will sponsor SEEK24 in St. Louis again next year from January 1-5. Put it on your calendar to attend, and invite some of your friends to join you.
David Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County.