Come. See. Hear. Encounter. This year, SEEK21 is coming to you

This year, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is doing something special for their annual SEEK conference: a one-of-a-kind, live broadcast event that will allow anybody to experience the four-day SEEK21 conference from any location.   

The FOCUS national conference welcomes all Catholics who want to live out the truth of Christ in daily life and learn more about their faith, but in a slightly different way than previous FOCUS conferences.    

“What’s amazing about this event is it truly is not designed to be virtual! SEEK21 is wherever you are this year. Essentially, if COVID regulations allow, we are inviting people to gather in their living rooms or parishes as small groups to attend SEEK together,” said Christine Sarnow, FOCUS Senior Director of Events. “The conference is an interactive experience with time for small group sessions and time to pray and attend the sacraments with those you are with. We believe that something transformative happens when this journey is with others!”  

SEEK 21 will take place Feb.  4 – 7 and will be a broadcast experience sharing the heart of the Gospel. The conference will be an interactive, immersive event that will bring thousands together in small group sessions from any location. Groups will be encouraged, strengthened, and healed through Mass, prayer, small group conversations, guest speakers and shared meals. 

Attendees will have the opportunity to listen remotely to the best of today’s Catholic speakers, teachers, and leaders sharing their stories, wisdom, and practical insight into the heart of the Gospel. This year’s keynote speakers include Bishop Robert Barron, Father Mike Schmitz, Jeff Cavins, Leah Darrow, Jason Evert, John Zimmer, Jennifer Fulwiler, Trent Horn, Damon Owens, Oscar Rivera Jr., Lila Rose and Sarah Swafford, among others.  

“Not only are these speakers incredible, but each talk is custom content for SEEK21, geared toward the heart of the gospel.  Each session is a part of an overall formative journey that, together, unfolds our faith’s beautiful story,” Sarnow added.  

College students, missionaries, FOCUS alumni, parishioners, clergy, religious, and all participants are encouraged to gather in Catholic centers, parishes, outdoor tents, or anywhere they can to journey together and ask the big questions about joy, peace, hope, and salvation.  

“I am very much looking forward to SEEK21 and all the wonderful graces the Lord will bestow on all who attend. God is much greater than our human restrictions and wants to transform lives through the experience of SEEK21,” said Deisy Muñoz Viesca, a FOCUS campus missionary. “It’s at these conferences that I am reminded of the great commission Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 28:16–20, to share the transformative message of Gospel and how Jesus will be with us always. I experience a lot of encouragement during the conference knowing that I am not alone in this journey of faith and that there are many others who are seeking Truth. And ultimately, it’s an encounter with the living God who loves us beyond all measure.”   

Mass and adoration will be broadcasted online and participants will be provided with time for prayer and the sacraments. Small group leaders are encouraged to coordinate with local parishes to provide live sacraments to their groups during SEEK21.  

“Prayer and the sacraments are where the real miracles happen at every SEEK conference, and SEEK21 will be no different,” Sarnow emphasized. “This will continue to be the foundation upon which SEEK is built. The Eucharist will be exposed for Holy Adoration not just in one room but in hundreds or perhaps even thousands across the globe – uniting all of our attendees with the same prayer intentions to ask God for an outpouring of His Spirit, healing in today’s culture and our Church, and for the evangelization of all nations.”

Attendees will gather together as a universal Church to experience Eucharistic adoration in unique ways, which includes live adoration simultaneously across the country.  

“Just Come. It is for you, no matter where you are at in your walk with your faith,” Sarnow concluded. “No matter your age or life circumstances. Register. We have had a challenging year as a country and global community, and I believe SEEK will be an unbelievable time of hope, joy, and mission that all our hearts are longing for!”  

For more information and registration visit: seek.focus.org.  

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”