The following is an article I wrote for the West Texas Angelus highlighting the impact of SEEK22 on our community.
Despite freezing temperatures and icy roads, over 40 college students and local parishioners gathered Feb. 4-6 at the Cathedral Church of the Sacred Heart in San Angelo, TX, to attend SEEK22, a hybrid conference exploring the Gospel message and call to missionary discipleship hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). More than 22,000 people attended regional SEEK22 events around the world.
After Mass in the Cathedral Friday evening, attendees gathered in the Sacred Heart Gym for dinner and the opening keynotes from Fr. Joshua Johnson, Vocation Director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, LA, and Curtis Martin, FOCUS Founder and CEO.
“When Fr. Joshua talked about inviting God into our mess, I was reminded of the intimate love God has for us,” said Araceli Regino, senior Criminal Justice major at Angelo State University. “When I let go of my grip on control, I can allow God to hold my hand and lead me.”
Bishop of San Angelo Michael J. Sis celebrated Mass Saturday morning to launch the second day of SEEK22 and stayed to host a question and answer session for participants over breakfast. From his thoughts on theology and the Trinity to his ideal day and biggest fear, Bishop Sis left no question unanswered.
“Bishop Sis really spoke to me when he talked about the importance of studying theology with humility,” said Tommy Carmack, member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in San Angelo. “Sometimes, I find myself studying theology not out of my love for God, but because I want to be right, so I was grateful for the reminder to allow my relationship with God to be the driving force of evangelization in my life.”
Saturday’s speakers continued to sow seeds of conversion among participants; Jason Evert and Sr. Bethany Madonna, SV, outlined what it means to be male and female. Then, keynotes from Msgr. James Shea, President of the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, and Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, spoke about why Jesus died and how He seeks out the lost to lead attendees into almost two hours of adoration, confessions and intercessory prayer to close the evening.
“Sr. Miriam focused on forming a relationship with Christ through prayer, which was a pretty common theme throughout the weekend,” Carmack said. “I felt convicted to remember that my salvation is not a process or series of steps I can do. When I pray, God is an actual Being on the other end, Someone Who loves me and Who I can love in return.”
In spite of SEEK22’s virtual nature, those who gathered for the conference found fellowship through small group discussion, free time between speakers and shared meals provided by local parishioners and different organizations throughout San Angelo, including the Knights of Columbus and Morning Glories of Holy Angels Parish and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
The final day of SEEK22 included two in-person talks given by Amy Perez, parishioner of Sacred Heart, and Vocation Director of San Angelo Fr. Ryan Rojo. Perez discussed the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer and taught participants how to pray with and intercede for one another. Fr. Rojo shared his personal testimony, encouraging those present to discover or live their vocation as a love story from God. “After Amy’s talk, I felt a deeper commitment to pray,” Regino said. “She helped me understand the power of the Holy Spirit and let go of some fears that had kept me from praying with others.”
Then, the final keynotes from Hilary Draftz, Tina Augustine and Fr. Mike Schmitz empowered listeners to integrate what they received from SEEK22 into their everyday lives and challenged them to share the Gospel message with others. “SEEK touched my heart in places I didn’t think it could,” said Abraham Guerrero, a sophomore at ASU who is working toward a double major in Civil Engineering and Architecture. “Because of SEEK, I want to grow in my faith and share it with others through attending more retreats and conferences, taking a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with FOCUS and applying to serve at Summer Projects, a faith-based work program also led by FOCUS.”
To close the conference, ASU Chaplain Fr. Adam Droll celebrated Sunday Mass with all the attendees. “Being at Mass and seeing all the young adults participating was particularly impactful for me,” Perez said. “I was overjoyed to be in the minority age-wise and see the younger generation pursuing their faith with understanding, wisdom and knowledge at SEEK22.”
Interested in hearing the talks from SEEK22? Find them on The SEEK Podcast!