It began as a gathering of 25 college students in 1999. In just 18 years, it has evolved into one of the largest Catholic conferences in the country, asking students, “What moves you?” and inviting them to encounter Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church in a way unlike any other event.
SEEK2017, a national conference run by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), provides an opportunity for daily Mass, several keynotes and breakout sessions, confession and adoration. 2017’s event takes place Jan. 3-7 in San Antonio, Texas, and more than 12,500 students are expected to attend.
SEEK, which runs every other year and generates a long lineup of talented Catholic speakers and entertainment, had almost 10,000 attendees from nearly 450 campuses at SEEK2015, and was largely successful — both as an event, and more importantly, on an individual level.
“At SEEK2015, a student told a priest during his confession that he was going to commit suicide. Because of the experience, his life was saved,” said Christine Sarnow, senior director of events for FOCUS, via email.
“Others have stopped living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, have confronted eating disorders and drug addictions, and have accepted an invitation to be FOCUS missionaries, enter convents and seminaries.”
One Colorado college student, Sara Sawyer, who went to the 2015 event, went back to her campus at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she began leading a Bible study. This year, she’s returning to SEEK again — this time, with another student, who has decided to join the Church after being in Sawyer’s Bible study.
“[SEEK2015] was pretty mind-blowing. It was awesome to see so many Catholics together…that were very devoted,” Sawyer, 22, said. “The speakers were phenomenal…and adoration was awesome.”
Sawyer, a fifth-year senior in ROTC, found that after SEEK, she “found her family” in the Catholic Church and was the beginning of her growth in the faith.
“I’m really hoping [my friend] gets a ton out of it. I want to walk with her on this experience, and I’m just desiring the most for other people on this experience as well,” Sawyer said.
CU Boulder is expected to bring around 100 students to the event, according to Sawyer. Colorado State University (CSU) is expected to bring in around 200, according to Nathan Quintana, senior.
Quintana went to FOCUS’ Student Leadership Summit (SLS) earlier this year in January, a smaller conference specifically for those who lead Bible studies for other students, and runs on SEEK’s off years.
After SLS inspired him with seeing how many other college students were passionate about growing in their faith and sharing it with others, Quintana, 22, decided he wanted to go to SEEK2017 as soon as it was announced.
“I knew it’d be a great opportunity to deepen my faith even more,” Quintana said. “It’ll be great to have five days to get away and set aside time for prayer…to see many great speakers, increase my knowledge about the faith, and getting to pray with 12,000 other college students.”
Students going to SEEK are all in different places in their faith journey, according to Sarnow.
“The students who come are all seeking something deep in their hearts, whether they know it consciously or not. That something is actually Someone — the true presence of our Lord Jesus,” Sarnow said.
“SEEK is an opportunity for students to encounter Him, and a catalyst for them to leave on fire to engage their Catholic faith in a deeper way. Our missionaries on campus are waiting to share their lives with the students as they return from SEEK, to be their guideposts on the journey.”
This year’s event packs a lineup of speakers including Fr. Michael Schmitz, Mark Hart, Curtis Martin, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Ryan Anderson, Audrey Assad, Jeff Cavins, Leah Darrow, Crystalina and Jason Evert, Matt Fradd, Jackie Francois, Jennifer Fulwiler, Dr. Tim Gray, Dr. Scott Hahn, Patrick Lencioni, Dr. Jonathan Reyes, Sarah Swafford and Dr. Edward Sri. Special guests and entertainment include Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame coach; The Oh Hellos, a folk rock band; and comedian Michael Jr.
For more information on SEEK2017, visit www.seek2017.com, or for more information on FOCUS and their ministry, visit www.focus.org.