Fla. Catholic conference energizes thousands of college students

Fla. Catholic conference energizes thousands of college students

Over six thousand young people pack the main ballroom for the SEEK 2013 conference in Orlando. Credit: Jason Siegel Photography.
Over six thousand young people pack the main ballroom for the SEEK 2013 conference in Orlando. Credit: Jason Siegel Photography.

.- The Seek 2013 gathering brought thousands of Catholic college students to Orlando, Florida's Swan and Dolphin Hotel Jan. 2-6, encouraging attendees to search for what God wants for them in life.

“It’s exciting to see so many people who care about their faith who love Jesus and want to follow Jesus and love the Church,” Jeremy Rivera, national director of marketing and communications for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), told CNA Jan. 8.

FOCUS presented the conference, which zeroed in on the theme “What Moves You.” The event's speakers gave wide-ranging talks about faith and contemporary Catholic life.

Over 5,000 attendees participated in Eucharistic Adoration while 3,000 to 4,000 students went to confession with 150 priests, Rivera said.

“It’s an exciting time in America’s history to be Catholic,” he said, adding that he hopes attendees will “go back to campuses and tell everything that the Church is for, not just what the Church is against.”

“We talk about the fullness of life. We talk about the fullness of truth. We want to put the color back into the negative photograph for people to see the vision that Jesus actually has for our life.”

“God doesn’t want us to be miserable,” Rivera said. “He wants us to be fulfilled. He wants us to be fully alive. He said ‘I came that you might have life and have it to the full.'”

Seek 2013 highlights included Eucharistic Adoration, a Matt Maher concert and a keynote speech by Catholic apologist and former model Leah Darrow.

Her talk “really resonated with a lot of the young people there who in our culture are kind of told to worry about the external,” Rivera said.

“Ultimately Christ wants a relationship with our true self,” he noted.

The Seek 2013 event was formerly called the FOCUS National Conference. Rivera said organizers changed the name of the biennial gathering as part of a “strategic shift” to appeal to more students than those who participate in FOCUS.

“We have a presence on 74 college campuses right now but there’s over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States,” he said. “We felt we’d have a broader reach if we didn’t focus so much on FOCUS and more on Seek.”

The name change could also help bring in those who are not Catholic.

“Wherever you are on the spectrum of faith, or not even on the spectrum – an atheist, an agnostic, spiritual but not religious – there’s a place for you here,” Rivera said.

“We’re inviting people to seek the truth, to have a dialogue with people and ask questions.”

He suggested the event is evidence of the “new springtime” of faith proposed by Pope Paul VI and his successors.

“We see this new springtime, this little shoot coming out of the ground,” he said. “It’s not just the germination from seed. We see it popping out now through groups like FOCUS and the (Denver-based) Augustine Institute and the new generation of leadership within the Knights of Columbus for example.”

“There are a lot of great apostolates,” Rivera said.

A reality show based on the Seek 2013 gathering is being prepared to air on the EWTN Global Catholic Network in the fall. It will follow five students at very different places in their spiritual life as they experience the event.

Tags: New Evangelization, Young Catholics

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