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Tuesday, 17 January 2023 10:39

Holy Spirit moves through nearly 19,000 people at SEEK23 in St. Louis

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01 22 2023 mass attendance

01 22 2023 mass processionHoly Spirit moves through nearly 19,000 people at SEEK23 in St. Louis

By ANDREW HANSEN 
Editor

ST. LOUIS — It was a week filled with grace, joy, spiritual enlightenment, new friendships, and memories for the dozens of high school students, college students, adults, religious, and clergy from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois who attended SEEK 23 in St. Louis Jan. 2-6. People from our diocese joined nearly 19,000 other Catholics from across the country for the conference, each of them encountering the Lord in deeper ways through daily Mass, confession, eucharistic adoration, hearing faith talks from Catholic leaders, and more.

“The seek conference was inconceivable at times to see so many different people come together to grow in their faith and to ultimately seek Him,” said Mak Keller, a student at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville (SIU-E) who grew up going to Mass at Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Maryville. “With so many resources in one place for myself and other friends I’ve talked to, we were all able to cultivate our knowledge to help bring us closer to the Lord.” 

01 22 2023 SEEK fr. dominic friendsFather Braden Maher (EIU Newman Center chaplain and pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Charleston), Father Michael Berndt (parochial vicar of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham), Catherine Porter (EIU Newman Center campus minister), Joe Gasseraro (alumnus of SIU-E), and Sean Barth (SIU-E Newman Catholic Community campus minister) pose for a photo at SEEK23. Porter’s daughter, Ann Marie, also joined in on the fun. “Being at SEEK was truly a gift from God that increased my faith and trust in His providence and the truth of the Catholic Church,” said Sam Lutastanski, a student at SIU-E who grew up going to Mass at St. Paul Parish in Highland. “Throughout the entire week, it was inspiring to experience such witness to God's love and devotion through the actions of so many college-aged men and women on fire with reverent love of the Lord.” 

FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students kicked) hosted SEEK23. FOCUS is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them into a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out a lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are. In our diocese, the Newman Catholic Community at SIU-E has a FOCUS team.  

“SEEK is something that I pray everyone gets the chance to attend one day,” said Sophia Clausius, a student at SIU-E, who grew going to Mass at St Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham. “Between Mass, all the talks, adoration, and concerts, it’s inevitable to feel God’s presence. My personal favorite part of SEEK is adoration simply because every doubt I’ve ever had about God vanished. His love, His mercy, His truth all became so true and so clear.” 

01 22 2023 SEEK pizza CYMKBishop Thomas John Paprocki hosted a happy hour of food and fellowship at a restaurant in downtown St. Louis Jan. 5 for those attending SEEK23. Pictured here with him are college students from our diocese and Father Braden Maher, chaplain at the Newman Center at EIU (and pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Charleston). The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois had a large presence at the conference, most of it coming from college students at Newman Centers at SIU-E, Eastern Illinois University, and Millikin University. Several high schools and parishes also sent students. The diocesan curia hosted a booth, promoting the great things happening in our diocese while also engaging college students to consider becoming a teacher in a Catholic school in our diocese, a Totus Tuus teacher in the summer, or pursuing other career opportunities. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, several priests, seminarians, and religious such as the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton also attended. On Jan. 5, those from the diocese were invited to a happy hour at a restaurant in downtown St. Louis for food and fellowship.

“Seeing 17,000 young men and women fall on their knees before Jesus during adoration and Mass was so moving, and I loved seeing the long lines for confessions,” said Maria Fitzgerald, a student SIU-E who grew up attending Mass at St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville. “Seeing and participating in such intense fellowship encourages me to pursue a deeper holiness and increases my desire to share Jesus with others. The talks that I attended were challenging and engaging. I learned so much, and hearing speakers talk about topics that have been relevant in my life offered new perspectives that I'll continue to pray about for a long time!”

SEEK24 returns to St. Louis Jan. 1-5, 2024.