Thousands of students inspired to live out the call to holiness

Over twenty-thousand college students from around the world traveled to Saint Louis, Missouri for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ (FOCUS) annual SEEK conference. Through Campus Ministry, a contingent of 75 Notre Dame students took time out of their winter breaks to learn from the many renowned speakers, worship with thousands of the faithful, and converse with Catholic students and clergy from around the globe from January 1st–5th.

The theme of the conference, “Be The Light,” echoes the message of St. John Paul II during his historic visit to Saint Louis in 1999. JPII encouraged thousands present to be “children of the light.” At SEEK, the keynote speakers utilized JPII’s commission as a roadmap for living a life of holiness as college students.

Prominent Catholics such as Fr. Josh Johnson and Chris Stefanik spoke about the beauty of a genuine Catholic life. Fr. Mike Schmitz, host of the hit podcast Bible in a Year, led a Eucharistic procession and adoration in the former football stadium of the St. Louis Rams.

Fr. Mike preceded Eucharistic adoration by sharing an anecdote about his father, an avid runner who suffered two major heart attacks while Fr. Mike was in college. Allegorizing the story, he told conference attendees, “No matter how far you run, you have a broken heart.” Fr. Mike then encouraged the thousands present to approach the Eucharist in one of two ways: by asking God to heal their sinful hearts, or even just contemplating their broken hearts that Christ came to redeem.

Cat LaPorte, a senior theology and Spanish major at Notre Dame, told the Rover that “one of the most impactful moments of the conference for me was [this] night of adoration mid-week, at which 24,000 Catholics of various ages and walks of life came together to worship Jesus present in the Eucharist.” 

Notre Dame Campus Minister Brett Perkins told the Rover: “The witness of 22,000 students coming together to celebrate the sacraments—you just can’t get that anywhere else. Especially for students at secular universities, it is amazing to see that they’re not in this alone.” For Perkins, this year’s SEEK Conference was his sixth as campus minister. He noted that the conference does an excellent job of reaching out both to students struggling with their faith as well as those seeking encouragement to continue striving in the virtuous life.

Many at SEEK agreed that Monsignor James Shea, President of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, delivered the most captivating presentation of the entire conference. In his address, he boldly argued that many of the problems facing college students—loneliness, depression, despair—do not mean that a student is deficient in some way. Rather, he contended that being “ill at ease with our existence” may be the inevitable effect of growing up in a world without God. Shea juxtaposed this uneasiness with the “comfort and joy” that only hope in Christ can bring. Shea’s message was received with a lengthy standing ovation from the thousands present.

Throughout the conference, students had the opportunity to explore hundreds of opportunities for service, discernment, and learning. Leaders in Catholic media such as Hallow, Relevant Radio, and Exodus 90 sent representatives to show off their apps and resources. Participants could listen to many famous Catholic podcasts presented live at the conference including Pints with Aquinas, Among the Lilies, and Man Catholic.

Religious orders came out in force to share their respective charisms and talk with young Catholics about vocational discernment. Notre Dame’s own Fr. John DeRiso, Director of the Office of Vocations for the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the US, attended the conference along with numerous Holy Cross seminarians to share the charism and work of the congregation. LaPorte said, “It was so uplifting to witness thousands of Catholics, in both religious and secular vocations striving to live out their personal calls to holiness.”

If you would like to listen to any of the talks presented at SEEK24, they are available for free at the SEEK website. SEEK 2025 is scheduled for January 1st-5th in Salt Lake City. 

Daniel Schermerhorn is a senior theology and computer engineering student who failed miserably at attempting to shake hands with Fr. Mike Schmitz after one of his talks. If you would like to share your condolences, please contact Daniel at

Photo Credit: The Irish Rover

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