The annual SEEK22 conference, hosted nationwide by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), last weekend brought together more than 22,000 people from 20 countries. That included the Philadelphia regional event held Feb. 5 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown where almost 200 college students from Philadelphia-area campuses gathered to encounter Christ. 

Students from West Chester University, Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University gathered joyfully to experience Christ and explore the Gospel call to missionary discipleship.

While each school held the first and last days of SEEK in their own Newman Centers, all the participants gathered for the second day to examine such questions as “What did Jesus teach?” “Why did Jesus die?” and “How is God calling you?”

The questions were prompted by keynote speakers including Sister of Life Bethany Madonna, Jason Evert, Edward Sri, Msgr. James Shea and Sister Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T.  

When the students were not watching the keynote speakers live, they had the opportunity to explore the shrine, participate in small groups and choose which impact sessions to attend.

SEEK22’s Mission Way offered a way for students to learn more about different service opportunities, religious orders and other Catholic organizations in the Philadelphia area, including the Legionaries of Christ, Philly Frassati, seminarians of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Mission Youth, Christ in the City, the Capuchin Friars, Generation Life, the Sisters of Life, Biking for Babies, the Culture Project, the Dominican Friars and the sodalities.  

After the keynote and impact talks, students gathered in small groups to discuss how their hearts were moved and forge deeper friendships with their peers. 

One of the impact sessions, “The Burning Desire for the Father” led by Franciscan Father Augustino Torres, moved Penn student Gaby Thomas, who said the priest’s talk “truly exemplified the desire to be loved and cared for, and many of us don’t always happen to experience that in our lives.”

Later on Saturday evening, students had the chance to adore the Blessed Sacrament along with Archbishop Nelson Perez who led a procession around the chapel so that all were able to witness the presence of Christ in the Eucharist up close.

“I had never seen so many Catholic students gathered in one area with the same goal in mind,” said student Colby Duffy from Easton, Pa. “Adoration that night gave me a deeper appreciation for Jesus as I saw how big they portrayed him to show just how powerful he is and that you can accept that power and trust in him.”

With more than 30 priests present at SEEK22, including Newman Center chaplains, Dominican friars and diocesan priests, the sacrament of confession was available all day to all the students, who also prayed with prayer teams throughout the day.  

After a whole weekend of hearing talks and joining in fellowship and prayer, Father Mike Schmitz praised the zeal of the students urged them to “not let what Jesus did this weekend go to waste … to not let what Jesus did stop with you.”

His encouragement and the conference program may have had an immediate effect at the

Temple University Newman Center, where time slots for daily eucharistic adoration filled up quickly and students asked how they could get more involved.

They discussed ideas to keep each other accountable, extend the lessons of the weekend and allow Jesus’ action among the participants – many of whom attended SEEK22 for the first time — to continue.

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Lucero Manzanares is a FOCUS missionary at Temple University.