DENVER, Jan. 6, 2023 — Founded in 1998, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) continues to inspire hope for the future of the Church and confirm that zeal for Jesus is flourishing on college campuses and beyond. SEEK23: You Are Called at the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis Jan. 2 – 6 brought together souls from around the world seeking Him, including groups from Ireland, Austria, Germany, Mexico and other countries.
Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus in the hit series The Chosen, surprised the SEEK23 audience by playing trivia with students and speakers on stage and then sharing his testimony. He encouraged attendees, “If you feel like you need some sort of breakthrough in your life, if you need some sort of opportunity to go further and something’s holding you back, ask yourself: Have you completely surrendered to God?”
FOCUS kicks off 25th Anniversary Celebration
FOCUS kicked off its 25th anniversary celebration at SEEK23. From 25 students at the inaugural FOCUS event in 1999 to nearly 19,000 people registered for SEEK23, FOCUS conferences continue to change lives and encourage tens of thousands of people to “Fear not; rise, He is calling you” (Mk 10:49).
Over the past 25 years, the Holy Spirit has worked through FOCUS to invite thousands of people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Building upon its foundation of campus ministry and parish outreach, FOCUS will galvanize hundreds of thousands more souls as missionary disciples striving towards heaven together.
An advance showing of the Thirst for Souls: The Michelle Duppong Story documentary aired at SEEK23, detailing the remarkable life of Servant of God Michelle Duppong, a former FOCUS missionary who passed away from cancer in 2015 at the age of 31. The film explored the many ways Duppong inspired others with her courageous spirit and missionary zeal. In 2022, Bishop David Kagan, Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., announced the opening of the diocesan investigation, which could lead to Duppong’s beatification and canonization.
Tributes to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
SEEK23 included several tributes to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, including a memorial at the Adoration Chapel all week and a Requiem Mass on Thursday, Jan. 5. FOCUS Founder and CEO Curtis Martin led a rosary before the Mass in honor of Benedict XVI, who in 2011 appointed Martin as a Consulter to the Pontifical Council of the New Evangelization.
During his homily, Archbishop Timothy Broglio (Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA) reflected, “The passing of Pope Benedict is a reminder of God’s divine love for us and the opportunity to respond to the Lord.” Broglio, who was recently elected to lead the USCCB, urged SEEK23 attendees to “not leave SEEK without recognizing the immense love of God for you and the amazing opportunities to witness to His name in our daily lives.”
World-class evangelization experts
More than 50 SEEK23 speakers, such as Fr. Josh Johnson, Sr. Bethany Madonna S.V., Chika Anyanwu, Jason Evert, Paul J. Kim and Dr. Edward Sri encouraged attendees to heed the call of the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. As in previous years, SEEK23 included Spanish-language talks from popular speakers such as Fr. Rafael Capó, Clara Cuevas and Vicente Del Real.
“Faith is not a feeling … Faith is holding onto truths your reason has accepted, despite your changing moods,” said SEEK23 keynote speaker Fr. Mike Schmitz, host of the chart-topping The Catechism in a Year podcast and The Bible in a Year podcast. In discussing the disturbing growth of “me-ism,” Schmitz declared, “Faith has to be a real relationship with a real God, not my own invention or my own version of God.”
Collegiate, Campus Ministry and Making Missionary Disciples Tracks
SEEK23 welcomed thousands of college students who participated in the Collegiate Track. Benedictine College, where FOCUS started 25 years ago, brought more than 200 students.
“After coming to SEEK23, I feel inspired to share my faith by being more open about my personal experiences with Jesus. I am also filled with hope seeing so many people my age on fire for our Catholic faith,” reflected Emily Scott, senior at Angelo State University.
More than 650 campus ministers and chaplains participated in
the Campus Ministry Track, and nearly 3,500 people signed up for the Making
Missionary Disciples (MMD) Track. The MMD Track equipped post-college
attendees who desire to transform parishes, dioceses, families and communities
through implementing the Church’s vision for missionary discipleship. Nearly 1,000
parishes brought groups to SEEK23.
Jason Rubel, a parishioner at St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville, Missouri, said, “Attending the SEEK conference for the first time has transformed my faith. Witnessing the passion and energy of the thousands of college students and young Catholics is inspiring and gives me hope for the future of the Church. The work of the Holy Spirit at SEEK23 was palpable and has me ready to bring the work of missionary discipleship back to my parish and community.”
Mass, adoration and confession move hearts
People encountered the Lord in deeper ways throughout SEEK23 during daily Mass, confession and Eucharistic adoration. More than 1,800 local Louisans joined the thousands of SEEK23 attendees at the special Wednesday evening Eucharistic Adoration in The Dome. That evening, more than 500 priests heard more than 3,000 confessions in two hours, along with thousands more throughout the event.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan was scheduled to be at SEEK23 but was called to Rome for the funeral of Benedict XVI. Including Archbishop Broglio, SEEK23 welcomed 24 bishops who concelebrated Mass along with more than 300 priests: Archbishop Samuel Aquila (Denver), Archbishop Joseph Naumann (Kansas City, Kan.), Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski (St. Louis), Archbishop Charles Thompson (Indianapolis), Bishop Luis Manuel Ali-Herrera (Bogotá, Columbia), Bishop Peter Baldacchino (Las Cruces), Bishop John Barres (Rockville Centre, N.Y.), Bishop Robert Brennan (Brooklyn), Bishop James Conley (Lincoln, Neb.), Bishop Earl Fernandes (Columbus, Ohio), Bishop Fintan Gavin (Cork and Ross, Ireland), Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt (Grand Island), Bishop James Johnston Jr. (Kansas City - St. Joseph), Bishop Carl Kemme (Wichita, Kan.), Bishop William Medley (Owensboro, Ky.), Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg (Reno), Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Springfield, Ill.), Bishop Edward Rice (Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.), Bishop Mark Rivituso (St. Louis, Auxiliary), Bishop Alois Schwarz (Sankt Pölten, Austria), Bishop Joseph Siegel (Evansville, Ind.), Bishop Peter Smith (Portland) and Bishop Gerald Vincke (Salina, Kan.).
FOCUS alumni honored
During SEEK23, FOCUS presented Adam and Maria Bremerkamps of Mount Vernon, Ohio, with the FOCUS Alumni Saint Francis Xavier Honor, which recognizes former students and missionaries involved with FOCUS who continue to live committed to Jesus Christ as missionary disciples beyond campus. The Bremerkamps are investing in their local parish and community through Bible studies and discipleship using FOCUS resources. Their impact is clear: 11 discipleship groups and 15 Bible studies with 60 people in discipleship and another 40 in Bible studies. More than 20 people are now leading Bible studies or discipleship groups of their own.
The Bremerkamps are discipling men and women who lead their own Bible studies in the Knights of Columbus and teachers at a local Catholic school. They work with college students who don’t have FOCUS missionaries on campus and have begun teaching the Little Way of Evangelization to other parishes nearby.
SEEK Where You Are and Lenten Bible Study keep momentum going
Those who couldn’t make it to St. Louis can still experience the best of SEEK23 with SEEK Where You Are, which offers parishes and small groups the opportunity to encounter the Lord alongside thousands of others.
To keep the momentum going and to help small group leaders build their skills after SEEK23, Martin and Sri will host a 12-week FOCUS “Lenten Bible Study on the Story of Salvation” live on Monday evenings 6–6:55 p.m. MT, Jan. 23 – April 10, 2023. The study will take participants deep into the one story that matters most: the story of salvation history. The Bible Study is open to anyone, and registration is at focusequip.org/lentenstudy2023.
SEEK23 Premier Level Sponsors included Augustine Institute, Benedictine College, Hallow, Seton Teaching Fellows and the University of Mary, who were “Sponsors of the Day.” Additional Premier Level Sponsors include Ascension, Camp Wojtyla, Catholic Medical Association, Christ in the City, Exodus 90, the Knights of Columbus, Spoke Street and Vagabond Missions.
SEEK24 returning to St. Louis
FOCUS will return to St. Louis for next year’s SEEK24 Jan 1 – 5, 2024. Registration is open at seek.focus.org/seek24.
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) 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 lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are.
For the 2022 – 2023 academic year, 861 missionaries are serving at 216 locations: 193 campus locations (including eight international campuses and 10 Digital Outreach campuses) and 23 parish locations. By 2027, FOCUS expects to have more than 1,000 missionaries serving in more than 250 locations around the world. FOCUS alumni, now more than 50,000 strong, are living and serving in parishes and communities across the country, including more than 10,000 trained for post-graduate evangelization. An important blessing of a fruitful partnership between the local campus ministry and FOCUS has been the pursuit of religious vocations. Since 1998, more than 1,000 people have entered the seminary or a religious house of formation after involvement with FOCUS on college campuses. Based on past experience, FOCUS expects that number to nearly double in the next 10 years. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. focus.org