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From left, Taylor Birkenmeier, Bella Obert, Abby Schultz and Rose Juergensmeyer knelt during the communion procession of the opening Mass of SEEK24 on Jan. 1 at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis. Obert attends Rockhurst University in Kansas City, the others are students at Lindenwood University.
From left, Taylor Birkenmeier, Bella Obert, Abby Schultz and Rose Juergensmeyer knelt during the communion procession of the opening Mass of SEEK24 on Jan. 1 at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis. Obert attends Rockhurst University in Kansas City, the others are students at Lindenwood University.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

‘The great privilege to participate in this salvation history’

SEEK24 conference opens in St. Louis with more than 19,000 college students and others

The Incarnation of Jesus at Christmas reminds us that we, too, are called to play a role in salvation history, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski told the more than 19,000 people gathered in the Dome at America’s Center for the opening Mass of the SEEK24 conference on Jan. 1.

Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski gave a blessing at the end of the opening Mass of SEEK24 on Jan. 1 at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
“Over this Christmas season, I’ve been pondering and praying over a phrase from a German mystic from a few centuries ago, Angelus Silesius. Angelus said, ‘Christ could be born in Bethlehem a thousand times, but it is all in vain unless He is born in me,’” Archbishop Rozanski said.

“We have been privileged to know that God has come into our world, taking on our humanity, bringing us redemption, giving His life for us, rising from the dead, but not only that — through baptism, God has given to us the great privilege to participate in this salvation history, to be instruments of salvation in the world, to be able to bring His Good News to others, and to let them know that Jesus was born in that humble manger for a reason, that Mary was chosen to be His mother for a reason,” he continued, “and that is that God wants to be part of our lives. He wants to be all of our lives.”

The SEEK24 conference, put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), gathers college students and adults from across the country and internationally for talks, prayer and fellowship to equip them with the tools to become effective witnesses to the Gospel.

The 2023 SEEK conference was also held in St. Louis, drawing around 17,000 people. More than 19,000 registered for this year’s conference, including college students, parishioners, ministry leaders, bishops, priests, seminarians and religious sisters and brothers.

The opening Mass was celebrated for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, marked each year on Jan. 1.

Jenny Reiter, a parishioner at Sacred Heart in Valley Park, wrote a prayer intention for family during day one of SEEK24 on Jan. 1 at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
“As we celebrate the motherhood of Mary, it seems impossible that a human being would give birth to God,” Archbishop Rozanski said in the homily. “Yet we all know that God does not work in the ways we expect, but He works in far different ways, in far more mysterious and wonderful ways. Who of us is worthy to be called to participate in this great work of salvation? And yet because God’s Son is born into the world, each one of us is invited through baptism, and through His Church, to participate in this great work of being signs of salvation to the world.

“What better love, what better example can we be given than Mary’s life — the mother of God, the mother of us all, the mother who intercedes for us so that our lives may be fruitful in the work of her son’s kingdom here on earth, so that salvation may be known to every corner of the world,” he continued.

The theme of this year’s SEEK conference is “Be the light,” inspired by the words of St. John Paul II during his 1999 visit to St. Louis: “You are children of the light! You belong to Christ, and He has called you by name.”

Archbishop Rozanski celebrated Mass in the same place St. John Paul II celebrated Mass during that visit 25 years earlier (then known as the Trans World Dome) — and using the same altar.

“It is wonderful to have you here in our city of St. Louis, here in this archdiocese,” Archbishop Rozanski said at the conclusion of Mass. “Many, many people throughout the archdiocese know of your presence here and are praying for you and this SEEK conference, that it may further make us disciples of the Lord.”

Speakers Father Josh Johnson and Tina Augustine delivered the Monday evening keynotes.

Taylor McElheny of Valparaiso, Indiana; Sister Emmanuel Kurtzweg, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, Indiana; and Skylar Burzynski, a parishioner at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage, Indiana, took photos on day one of SEEK24 Jan. 1 at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
God has a gift for each person gathered at SEEK this week, even if we might feel unworthy to receive it, said Father Johnson, a priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and podcaster and author with Ascension.

“You are not alone. You are surrounded by a bunch of people who are also struggling to become saints,” he said. “Pope Francis keeps reminding us: The Church is not supposed to be a museum of saints. The Church is a hospital for sinners…we invite you to come, come as you are, to show up as you are every day.”

Augustine, a FOCUS parish missionary in Menlo Park, California, told the crowd that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to receiving God’s love and sharing it with others.

“If we have never heard the testimony of people who have encountered Him, or we ourselves have never encountered Him, it is hard to believe He is out there,” she said.

The conference continues through Jan. 6, with each day featuring Mass, a variety of morning and afternoon session options for each track with topics and workshops from FOCUS leaders and national speakers, and evening keynote talks for all in attendance. Wednesday evening will include evening eucharistic adoration, and there is time for the sacrament of reconciliation each day.

Many groups and individuals from the Archdiocese of St. Louis are participating this year, including about 500 adult parishioners on the Making Missionary Disciples track, which explores practical ways to evangelize in the home, parishes and the greater community.

Free evening at SEEK Jan. 3

On the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 3, archdiocesan parishioners of all ages are invited to join SEEK for keynote talks by Father Mike Schmitz and Edward Sri followed by eucharistic adoration. There is no cost to attend, but reservations must be made in advance. Shuttles will run from 5-11:30 p.m. from two locations to the Dome at America’s Center and back: the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, 4431 Lindell Blvd., and Immacolata Parish, 8900 Clayton Road.

The archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship will also host a reception for participants from the archdiocese at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, before the evening keynotes and adoration. All are invited to connect with other parishioners to dream about the Church that God is calling us to build in the archdiocese. The reception is also free, but you must reserve your spot.

For more information and to reserve Wednesday evening tickets, visit archstl.org/seek.

Servers and clergy began to process in for the opening Mass of SEEK24 on Jan. 1 at America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis. More than 19,000 people attended the opening Mass of the conference, which goes until Jan. 5.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

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