SEEK2015 Transforms Nearly 10,000 Catholic College Students

Nearly 10,000 attendees at SEEK2015, hosted by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, felt the power of the Holy Spirit move through them during five transformational days, January 1-5, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. The event grew more than 50% from SEEK2013, the last time the event was held and brought together 6,100 people. Prayer, worship and inspirational speakers promoted the call to the New Evangelization, encouraging others to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and share their joy—and faith—with others.

Students and chaplains from nearly 450 campuses, including FOCUS’ 100 campuses, came to hear nationally-acclaimed speakers such as Dr. Helen M. Alvaré, Father Michael Schmitz, Sister Mary Gabriel, S.V., and Curtis Martin, FOCUS Founder and CEO. Comedian Jim Gaffigan was the entertainment headliner and author Chris Stefanick emceed the event. Many of the talks can be downloaded and viewed at SEEK2015 Videos.

“What I found at SEEK were two things: knowledge and love,” said Dave Korenchan, UC-Berkeley, one of FOCUS’ 100 campuses. “Not only did the conference equip me with the necessary Catholic teaching I needed to understand, but it addressed my fears of sacrificing myself for the sake of the Gospel. Love is an act of will, not an emotion. When I encountered Christ during Adoration I discovered, as tears welled up in my eyes, how much I was loved and how much I desired to love Him! This experience inspired me to change my life.”

Most participants attended daily Mass with nearly 200 priests concelebrating, including Archbishop Lori from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Aquila from the Archdiocese of Denver and several others. During the powerful Saturday evening of Eucharistic Adoration, thousands went to confession, some for the first time in years, experiencing God’s healing power of forgiveness. Priests heard more than 5,500 Confessions over the course of the 5-day event.

“Every single speaker I listened to seemed to be speaking directly to me,” said Kylie Salmen from Dakota State University. “I knew that I wasn't alone in my fight to regain my faith. I went to confession for the first time in years. And at Adoration afterward, I started weeping almost instantly. I could feel that I was not alone and that God was with me. I arrived at SEEK2015 a wounded woman and left beginning to heal.”

Most SEEK attendees were college students, but many supporters attend, including FOCUS chaplains, who are integral to FOCUS’ work on campuses. Many other priests and religious came and played an important role in the event, hearing confessions and counseling students throughout the five days. Other attendees included FOCUS alumni, FOCUS benefactors and those who wanted to learn how to deepen their own faith and share it with others. Many said their experiences at SEEK2015 restored their hope for the future of Catholicism.

“Seeing all of the students at SEEK is inspiring and gives us hope for the future of the Catholic Church,” said Margaret Kelly, retired RE/MAX CEO and first time SEEK attendee along with her husband, John. “FOCUS encourages students to be open about their faith and share it joyfully with others. Kids want to make a difference in life, and FOCUS is guiding them along the right path.”

Also at the conference, FOCUS presented Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., with its Saint John Paul II Award. This award honors Catholics who, by their demonstrated commitment and witness, inspire others to the universal call to holiness and the renewal of humanity. Representing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Barbara Henkels co-presented the award to Archbishop Chaput, who has played an instrumental role in FOCUS' founding and expansion to 100 campuses nationwide. FOCUS benefactors Carol and John Saeman also spoke during the award ceremony. Archbishop Chaput invited the Saemans to help launch FOCUS and Carol served on the early Board of Directors for FOCUS.

SEEK is held every other year, alternating with the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit (SLS). More than 37,000 people have attended FOCUS events since the inaugural National Conference held in 1999, where 25 students came together to pray, deepen their Catholic faith and learn how to share Christ with others.

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