Meet me in St. Louis: SEEK24 to return to ‘Rome of the West’

 

null / Jonah McKeown/CNA

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 9, 2023 / 10:07 am (CNA).

The SEEK conference, a major Catholic conference for students, adults, and clergy put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), will return to St. Louis in 2024 for the second year in a row, FOCUS announced late last week.

According to FOCUS’ estimate, nearly 19,000 people — students, adults, families, bishops, priests, religious sisters, and more — attended the five-day SEEK23 conference at the America’s Center Convention Complex in downtown St. Louis last week. The conference — now in its 25th year — included workshops, talks, and entertainment as well as daily Mass, confession, and eucharistic adoration.

The 2023 gathering was FOCUS’ first fully in-person national conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. FOCUS held a national conference in Indianapolis in 2019 and a smaller student leadership summit in Phoenix in the earliest days of 2020. Conferences for 2021 and 2022 were held online due to the pandemic.

More than 1,800 local St. Louisans joined the SEEK23 attendees at a special Wednesday evening eucharistic adoration session, held in the former stadium of the St. Louis Rams football team. That evening more than 500 priests heard more than 3,000 confessions in two hours, along with thousands more throughout the event, FOCUS said.

FOCUS announced on Thursday evening that the next SEEK will take place Jan. 1–5, 2024, also in St. Louis at the same venue.

Archdiocese of St. Louis seminarian Ben Wolf, left, and Sister Anne Weis, FMA, at the SEEK23 conference in St. Louis, Jan. 5, 2023. Jonah McKeown/CNA
Archdiocese of St. Louis seminarian Ben Wolf, left, and Sister Anne Weis, FMA, at the SEEK23 conference in St. Louis, Jan. 5, 2023. Jonah McKeown/CNA

Hector Molina, a Catholic evangelist based in St. Louis, told CNA ahead of the announcement that he hopes the young people in attendance at SEEK will allow their encounter with Jesus to change the course of their lives.

“This is my first SEEK conference, and it has impacted me greatly. It’s filled me with tremendous hope,” Molina told CNA.

“In the midst of so much bad news — we know of the dysfunction and the division within the Church and the infighting, and there’s just so much bad news. As one who travels the country sharing the Gospel, I have so many Catholics who will pull me to the side and who will lament and bemoan all of this stuff that’s happening. I wish that I could somehow share with them the things that I am privileged to see [at SEEK] because I see so many signs of hope. I’ve got to tell you, participating in this conference with 17,000 hungry souls who are yearning for the Lord and to serve him has been just incredibly inspiring to me.”

Attendees at the SEEK23 Catholic conference held in St. Louis. FOCUS
Attendees at the SEEK23 Catholic conference held in St. Louis. FOCUS

Brian Miller, director of evangelization and discipleship for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, told CNA last year that St. Louis was originally chosen for SEEK in part because it is centrally located and convention-friendly but also because the city is ripe for the kind of renewal that FOCUS aims to provide. St. Louis is a city with a historically vibrant Catholic presence that earned it the informal moniker “The Rome of the West.” St. John Paul II visited the city in 1999, leaving a lasting impression — especially on the young — despite his age and fragile health at the time.

In addition to at least two dozen bishops and numerous priests and religious brothers and sisters, nearly 9,000 of the attendees at SEEK23 were students. Moreover, more than 3,500 people signed up for FOCUS’ Making Missionary Disciples (MMD) Track, which is designed for older Catholics who want to do a better job of sharing their faith with people they already know and love. Miller said his office plans to host follow-up events for St. Louis Catholics to build upon what people will learn at SEEK about evangelization as well as provide them with resources to help them start Bible studies and small discipleship groups.

SEEK23 included several tributes to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, including a memorial at the adoration chapel all week and a Requiem Mass on Jan. 5 celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Since its founding in the 1990s, FOCUS has sent missionaries to college campuses across the United States and abroad to share the Catholic faith primarily through Bible studies and small groups, practicing what it calls “The Little Way of Evangelization” — winning small numbers of people to the Catholic faith at a time through authentic friendships and forming others to go out and do the same.

In addition to attendees from across the United States, groups from Ireland, Austria, Germany, Mexico, and other countries were also present at SEEK23, FOCUS said.


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