When Kelley Basta attended a SEEK conference for the first time in 2018, she hoped it would inspire her teenage children to remain active in their faith as they transitioned to college.
It did. But she also found her own calling to go out and make disciples.
“(Before,) I knew evangelization was important. But I guess I didn’t really feel called to it,” Basta said. “Once I went to SEEK, I knew I was called to it.”
Basta shared her experience with those gathered for SEEK First on Sept. 30 at St. Louis University High School. SEEK First previewed the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ (FOCUS) upcoming national conference, SEEK24, which will be held in St. Louis from Jan. 1-5. The conference was also held in St. Louis in January 2023.
While the SEEK conference started as a national gathering for college students, it has since expanded to include the Making Missionary Disciples track for adults and a Ministry Track for campus and parish ministry leaders.
During SEEK23 in St. Louis, Basta’s parish, Holy Spirit in Maryland Heights, was on her heart. She had been involved in the parish as a PSR teacher and in other ministries when her children were younger, but lately, the family had been attending Mass at a different parish with fuller pews and vibrant liturgies.
“But I kept feeling in my heart: My calling is to my parish, because the people I love are at my parish and in my community. And they deserve all of this, too. Who’s going to do it at our parish, if not us?” she said. “And what SEEK did was gave me the confidence, just being there and seeing how all these other people are going out and evangelizing in different ways — you know, I could do that, too.”
She was touched by the reminder that Jesus Himself spent most of His time deeply investing in just a dozen people.
“To me, that wasn’t as intimidating,” she said. “I can invest deeply in a few people, instead of thinking that as an evangelist, I have to go out and find people on the street, hundreds of people.”
She returned to Holy Spirit Parish and started a Bible study with a friend. They prayed about 10 women they felt called to invite, and then they made phone calls. Nine said yes — eight of them during the initial phone conversation. This confirmed that “there’s a hunger for this,” she said. “We didn’t really know what we were doing. But we started, and now some of the ladies from our Bible study are here today. And we’re still meeting together.”
During Bible study, the women have started sharing their own small moments of evangelization: a conversation at work, a Bible verse they felt inspired to share with a friend. “We share the little ways that we found courage we never had before to talk to somebody that was in our life,” Basta said. “And we keep encouraging each other.”
Basta and her husband, Jim, also helped start an evangelization leadership team at Holy Spirit, working with the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. It was providential that SEEK happened in St. Louis during the All Things New pastoral planning process, she said, because the conference gave her great hope for the Church in the archdiocese and beyond.
“I look around at the history of our Church, and so many times in the 2,000 years when it looked like our Church was going to die. And yet, God raised up saints and revitalized our Church, and I am thoroughly convinced we are in that moment today,” she said. “If you come to SEEK, I am convinced you are surrounded by saints who are making the future of the Church, and I want to be part of that too.”
“If you think the Church is dying, just come to SEEK — I promise you it’s not,” she added.
Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski also shared his experience of SEEK23 at the SEEK First event. He was most impressed by how “we were given the tools of what to do next, how to invite others to deepen their relationship with Christ, how to invite others to begin their relationship with Christ, and how to witness to the Gospel as true disciples following the Lord Jesus,” he said.
“SEEK last year here in St. Louis was for me a peak experience,” he continued. “But it’s also an experience where you say, ‘I have to do something about this. I cannot take this energy, this gift of the Holy Spirit, and keep it to myself. I’ve got to share.’ And that’s what we need in our Church and in our society today: People who are on fire with the faith, and people who are willing to share the faith with others and be not afraid.”
We’re often bombarded by bad news these days, Archbishop Rozanski said. But as Catholics, we celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ, which puts everything else into perspective.
“I think what we’re being called to, in this era, as we approach our 200th anniversary of our archdiocese, is to realize that we can’t go on living our faith without sharing it…we have much mission territory here,” he said. “And SEEK helps us build the confidence that in being on fire for the Lord Jesus and the Gospel, we can share that faith. SEEK is coming at the perfect time, both last year and this coming year, to inspire us in our faith to share that faith with others, to invite them in, and to see the goodness of the Lord at work.”
The national SEEK24 conference, presented by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, will be held Jan. 1-5 at America’s Center Convention Complex in downtown St. Louis. The conference includes tracks for college students, ministry leaders and parishioners and will feature Catholic speakers, dedicated prayer time, fellowship and entertainment.
This year’s theme is “Be the light,” inspired by the words of St. John Paul II: “You are children of the light! You belong to Christ, and He has called you by name.”
The archdiocese is offering discounted registration for parish packs. Parishioners are invited to register in parish groups and use code StLouisLocalParish to take $250 off the price of a parish six pack.
To learn more about the event schedule and speakers, and to register, visit seek.focus.org.