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After a three-year hiatus, FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) hosted its annual SEEK conference in person again on Jan. 2-6 in St. Louis, Missouri.

SEEK23 welcomed nearly 19,000 people including thousands of college students who participated in the Collegiate Track. Institutions of higher education from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were able to bring 90 students. Temple University, Drexel University, West Chester University, and The University of Pennsylvania were represented in the delegation.

SEEK23 presented the heart of the Gospel and modern-day missionary discipleship in accessible and meaningful ways. People encountered the Lord in deeper ways throughout SEEK23 during daily Mass, confession, and Eucharistic adoration. At the special Wednesday evening Eucharistic Adoration, more than 500 priests heard more than 3,000 confessions in two hours, along with thousands more throughout the event. Every person in that dome could feel the love being poured out, especially college students who had never experienced anything like it before.

“The experiences of Mass and adoration with so many people were truly life changing and something that I will carry with me for a long time,” said Bridget McFadden, a freshman at Temple University, “So many were moved by the spirit, each having a special and unique experience.”

Keynote speaker Father Mike Schmitz offers words of encouragement to students attending the SEEK23 conference sponsored by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). (Photo courtesy of FOCUS)

At SEEK23 participants listened to a variety of speakers such as Fr. Josh Johnson, Sr. Bethany Madonna S.V., Chika Anyanwu, Jason Evert, Paul J. Kim and Dr. Edward Sri and were encouraged to heed the call of the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. As in previous years, SEEK23 included Spanish-language talks from popular speakers such as Fr. Rafael Capó, Clara Cuevas and Vicente Del Real.

“Faith is not a feeling … Faith is holding onto truths your reason has accepted, despite your changing moods,” said SEEK23 keynote speaker Fr. Mike Schmitz. In discussing the disturbing growth of “me-ism,” Schmitz declared, “Faith has to be a real relationship with a real God, not my own invention or my own version of God.”.

Throughout the day, students were able to gather before, in between and after talks to discuss what they were hearing and seeing, the movements that their hearts were experiencing and gather in fellowship with Christ at the center of it all.

“Through SEEK, I was able to reflect on the Church as universal,” said Patrick Stack, Junior at Thomas Jefferson University. “Seeing so many Catholic college students, bishops, priests, and everyone in between come together to celebrate the Mass was a beautiful encounter and demonstrated how each person has a unique experience and calling, but at the end of the day it is the same Mass, and we are all part of the same universal Catholic Church.”

Students not only gathered with peers from their own school but also with students from across the nation, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Mexico and other countries. It was a universal encounter of truth, beauty and goodness for every individual present, no matter the stage of life or faith they might have been in.

Catholic students from West Chester University joined thousands of other young people at the SEEK23 conference sponsored by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of FOCUS)

One of the most beautiful parts of the SEEK experience is that it did not end in St. Louis on Jan. 6. This experience can be brought to your home or parish through SEEK Where You Are  you can host your parish and small groups Feb. 3-5 (or whatever weekend works best).

“SEEK23 was the highlight of the Christmas season for me. Joy of heart is contagious in that atmosphere, and I would (and will) encourage anyone to go to SEEK24,” said Fr. Alex Gibbs from St. Albert’s Parish.

In each conference, the Holy Spirit is present to invite thousands of people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. He is inviting you. Come to SEEK24 Jan. 1-5 in St. Louis and encounter Him in a way like you never have before.


Lucero Manzanares is a FOCUS missionary serving at Temple University. She and her FOCUS teammates work with Temple University Newman Center to host Bible studies and other activities to bring students closer to Christ.