SEEK 2015

SEEK and you shall find …

It was a great gift for me to attend SEEK 2015, a conference for Catholic young adults presented by FOCUS, a group of missionaries that serves on college campuses throughout the country. I tagged along with Sr. Elizabeth, our vocations coordinator, to be a witness to religious life for the young people. But I also went hoping the Lord had something in store for me.

I suppose I’m admitting I went to SEEK hoping for a mountaintop experience, hoping for something new and exciting. And He did not disappoint.

There’s nothing wrong with expecting God to do great things—that’s called faith. It’s when we limit God to acting only in extraordinary situations that there’s a problem.

We began our trip on New Year’s Day by boarding a bus of students from Franciscan University and University of Pittsburgh. More than 500 miles and a few bathroom breaks later, we arrived in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center (an overwhelming name for an overwhelming place). The Lord didn’t wait very long to show us His work. We unloaded our buses and made our way through a maze of people and hallways to check in. Within the first few minutes, Sr. Elizabeth and I both ran into friends—seminarians, priests, students—we had never guessed would be at the conference. How easy could it be to find each other in such a crowd? Only with the Lord …

It only got better. The conference speakers turned out to be amazing—people like Chris Stefanick, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sr. Mary Gabriel, S.V., Helen Alvare, Edward Sri, Jennifer Fulwiler, and holy bishops like Archbishop Charles Chaput and Bishop William Lori. There were so many inspiring words for the young adults that set all our hearts aflame for Christ and His Church. There was Jesus in the Eucharist each day at Mass and in Adoration. There were hundreds and hundreds of young people in lines for confession, singing “Lord, Prepare Me.”

Then there were the conversations. We had a table with vocations materials for the attendees, and we met a number of women who were discerning religious life there. Soon after beginning to open up about the call they felt in their hearts, some would begin to tear up, relieved to speak of their desire for more. One evening we went to a vocations event on the schedule, thinking there would be a few religious speaking at a microphone. We found a room full of tables and chairs and frank conversations about the challenges and joys of religious life. We stayed for two hours, sharing our own stories over and over to small groups of women.

And we kept running into people we knew! Each time it was a new miracle. We started losing track of all the people who asked us to say “Hi” to Sister So-and-so for them. It was encouraging to hear so many stories from people who are planting seeds of goodness, truth and beauty in the world and watching them grow. God is certainly alive!

There was one damper. Most of the conference, I was trying to ward off a threatening cold. Some nights I had to choose extra sleep over more adventures and interactions, and some nights the Lord multiplied the little sleep I got. There is nothing like walking the edge of need with the Lord and standing back and watching Him provide.

He even provided our meals! He fed us dinner each night through a number of spiritual fathers. And the one night Sr. Elizabeth and I went to dinner alone, a man at the restaurant handed us $20, just a few cents short of our bill!

But of course, He always provides for us. Why should I be surprised? I guess sometimes we have to leave our ordinary situations to see what we take for granted every day.

Dorothy of Kansas said it best: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again,
I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” Was she ever right! I knew God was my Father, my Provider, the Arranger of my time and the trustworthy Guide on my path. But I needed to hear it again. I think the Lord sometimes plucks us out of our routine and puts us into unfamiliar territory to show us in a new way something we knew all along. I just don’t know why it had to be in a crowd of 9,000 people! =)

The conference ended after a round of encouraging “Go Forth!” talks from some of the keynote speakers and a beautiful Mass. After another 10-hour journey, a deck of cards and some Word Jumbles, Sr. Elizabeth and I and the students arrived safely in Steubenville.

There’s no place like home.

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1 comment:

  1. Love this post! Your message was so encouraging. :-) He is so faithful!


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