Campus Ministry works to build a community of faith
For over two decades, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has hosted SEEK, an annual national Catholic conference for college students. SEEK usually takes place in a major city where over 12,000 students on average will gather to learn about the Catholic faith, engage in fellowship, and encounter the broader Church.
This year, due to the pandemic, the conference adapted to a hybrid version with livestream options for people across the country and the world, as it had last year. With the support of many students, priests, and volunteers, Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry pivoted from planning a trip to Salt Lake City, UT, the intended location, to organizing an on-campus SEEK conference. New community-focused additions enriched and differentiated the plan from last year’s retreat, which was also held on campus due to COVID-19.
The planning team—composed of campus ministers, students, priests-in-residence, Holy Cross seminarians, and past FOCUS missionaries—emphasized the importance of offering Mass, adoration, confession, and small groups in person to accompany the virtual presentations. The circumstances prompted the thoughtful creation of a space for prayer and growth.
Christian Quilon, a sophomore who served as a SEEK facilitator, remarked, “The whole conference was really built on the idea of intentionality and God’s abundance in his generosity.”
The conscientious preparation invited attendees to recognize the unique benefits of participating in SEEK22 on campus. “We wanted to be able to have a place of encounter [on campus] through the talks, through adoration, through small groups,” said Quilon.
The on-campus location enabled many more students to participate in the weekend of Eucharistic adoration, small group discussions, Mass, confession, prayer, and keynote presentations from distinguished Catholic speakers, including Jason Evert, Tina Augustine, Fr. Mike Schmitz, and Sr. Bethany Madonna.
“I love that we all got to do it together at Notre Dame this year,” explained attendee and fifth- year senior Michael Perenich, who has attended FOCUS conferences in the past, both virtually and in-person.
While Perenich noted the more dynamic aspects of SEEK in a typical year—the size, the energy, and the experience—he also stressed the advantages of having SEEK on campus. “This year was beautiful because we got to really engage the entire Notre Dame community,” reflected Perenich.
Quilon and other students echoed Perenich’s sentiments.
Participants came to see the breadth of the Catholic Church on campus in a new way. “There is a bigger community here that doesn’t often come together,” said SEEK participant and small group leader Michael Florin. While many dorms have their own robust and tight-knit Catholic communities, SEEK gave students a tangible experience of the broader Catholic community at Notre Dame.
Anchor Intern and SEEK facilitator Dora Leonardo spoke with the Rover about how SEEK continues to animate the lives of those who attended through prioritizing each person and the community.
“The conference was beautiful,” she remarked, “but it was even better once I went to class later and heard an individual speak [about] their experience, much of which had an impact on their discernment.”
The structure of the weekend balanced the importance of communal prayer and discourse with personal prayer and discernment and gave retreatants a sense of belonging and purpose.
“SEEK [was] a time where [we] disconnected from our own lives to step into a divine intimacy with Christ,” reflected Quilon.
SEEK not only empowered students to pursue a richer understanding of their Catholic faith and a deeper relationship with Christ but also to adopt a mission of faith at all times. The conference highlighted the role of communal prayer and intentional retreat in building a community of faith on campus and promoting the Catholic identity of the university.
William Smith is a sophomore from St. Charles, MN, studying theology. He enjoys all things winter. If he is not skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, or skating, he can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Marie Lunne
Caption: Students gather for praise and worship on Saturday, February 5th