I love bringing two important parts of my life together. It can be introducing my friends to home-cooked Mexican meals, taking people to see the sights of a familiar city, or speaking to strangers in their native languages and interpreting for them. Bringing new things to others gives me great joy. This past week, the youth ministry team attended the SEEK 2019 conference, organized by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). The rest of the team was exposed to an organization I was involved in all four years of college. The importance of the community and support that FOCUS provided me, and the amazing mission trip to Uganda I took with them, have been difficult to put into words. SEEK gave me the perfect opportunity to share that experience with my new peers.
The conference in Indianapolis was attended by nearly 17,000 university students, campus ministers, and parish personnel. Renowned authors, clergy, professors, missionaries, and parish leaders provided talks and training to help those called to missionary work grow deeper in faith, fellowship, and community. I was overwhelmed with the variety and breadth of the different talks and topics provided. In any given day, attendees could hear up to six different speakers. They covered subjects like the Holy Spirit, the call to religious vocation, addiction, forgiveness, handling internal pain and struggle, capital campaigning, health care ethics, leading small groups, apologetics, and many, many more. Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and confessions were also provided daily. Over one hundred different booths shared information on graduate schools, religious orders, Catholic media, volunteer groups, mission trips, and many other religious organizations.
I was excited to see the team dive into the experience and bring new insights and lessons to our discussions. There were moments of spiritual growth and nourishment, but hat really stands out were the connections we made. I met many new people in exciting ministries. A podcaster in Cincinnati gave me ideas of how to implement some new content initiatives here at JSC. An Indianapolis volunteer gave me a new appreciation for the power of prayer. Founders of an organization targeting alienated youths gave me new hope for evangelizing to my peers who have left the Church. They were all among the many who touched my heart this weekend.
Several of us also saw people that we recognized there—from old friends and partners in mission to fellow ministers. I was overjoyed to find Katie, who served a year on my campus with FOCUS, in my morning session small group. There was also John Marc, one of the FOCUS band leaders, who was a mission trip leader in Uganda and wrote a letter of recommendation when I applied to JSC. I was also extremely excited to see my mission trip friend Connor, working at the booth for the Jesuits as a novice. The continued presence of people with whom I learned and served during college and those with whom I now serve was deeply moving. It reminded me of our ministry’s power and the fire Christ ignited in the depths of our hearts. Seeing so many young people whose hearts burned with the Holy Spirit renewed my passion for the ministry at JSC and encouraged me to continue to pursue spiritual growth with abandon and to guide our retreatants to do the same.