Fr. Jurek, chaplain at South Alabama, says SEEK has ‘ an amazing influence’ on many attendees
By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
More than 17,000 young adult Catholics, including hundreds from colleges within the Archdiocese of Mobile, recognized they are far from alone in their faith journey.
Students from the University of South Alabama, Auburn, Troy, Spring Hill College and Coastal Alabama Community College attended the SEEK2019 conference Jan. 3-7 in Indianapolis.
“During the conference they realized that they are not alone in their spiritual journey, that so many young people from all over the country have the same desire to make the relationship with Jesus a priority in their lives and that they have similar struggles when it comes to sharing their faith,” said Fr. Norbert Jurek, chaplain at the University of South Alabama’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Student Center. “This is really powerful when you see that you are not on your own, that you are trying to build God’s Kingdom with your brothers and sisters from all over the place.”
Fr. Jurek, Campus Ministry Associate Emma Zanotelli and the university’s FOCUS missionaries joined about 50 South Alabama students at this year’s conference.
The conference was sponsored by the Denver-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). The group, founded in 1998, seeks to nurture the Catholic faith in college students. It currently has nearly 700 missionaries serving on 153 college campuses in 42 states and five international locations.
The conference featured opportunities for Mass, confession and eucharistic adoration as well as faith-related workshops, inspirational speakers and entertainment by Catholic musicians.
“SEEK becomes a formative event which has an amazing influence on so many who are attending,” Fr. Jurek said. “Just this year I was able to witness a couple of conversions and hear great stories of how God has touched hearts of young men and women through people involved with the conference.”
The week also included the second “Alabama Breakfast” gathering at the conference, which was arranged by Archdiocese of Mobile Vocations Director Father Victor Ingalls and Father Josh Altonji of the Diocese of Birmingham
Fr. Ingalls also gave a talk to FOCUS Greek students and Fr. Andrew Jones, parochial vicar at Little Flower Catholic Church in Mobile, spoke to seminarians from across the country.
“It was incredible to see hundreds of young people from all over the state of Alabama stand in unison as they were recognized for pursuing the Lord’s will in their life, whether that be through a priestly/religious vocation, marriage, ministry or simply saying yes to bringing Christ into their schools in a new way,” Zanotelli said. “Students from all over the state were inspired to see so many young people from their home state gathered in prayer to bring this renewed spirit back to the place they love.”
Colleen Tragonski, an Auburn junior, said the impact of the conference is “so hard to put into words.”
“The Holy Spirit is so present here, everywhere in the atmosphere,” she told Catholic News Service. “That’s the best way that I can put it.”
She said the conference gave her “an incredible hope,” despite the challenges facing the church now.
“It’s amazing to see thousands and thousands of college students celebrating the Mass, all making this journey to Indianapolis, but also to heaven,” she said.
She also said she looked forward to embracing the mission that Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila presented to conference attendees during a Mass he celebrated Jan. 6.
During his homily Archbishop Aquila implored the conference participants to take the light of Christ they have received and share it with others.
“You are the light of the world today, in history,” Archbishop Aquila said. “You are the ones who reflect the light of Christ to others. You are sent on mission in whatever walk of life you are in, to bring Christ to others.”
Said Tragonski: “I hope that I can take everything that I’ve learned and use it in every single moment of my life to be the light of Christ for other people,” she said. “It’s so easy to be on a high when you’re here. It’s the biggest challenge to … bring that to other people.”
— Catholic News Service contributed to this report