Local Parishioners, EWU and GU Students Encounter Christ During Interactive SEEK21 Conference
SEEK21, the annual conference for Fellowship of Catholic University Students opened the hearts of students and parishioners to encounter Christ Feb. 4 – 7. Through a hybrid format of livestream and in-person talks, as well as small group discussions, SEEK21 encouraged participants to deepen their faith and share the Gospel with others, inspiring hope during these challenging times.
More than 27,000 people signed up for SEEK21 from 20 countries and six continents. Eastern Washington University hosted more than 60 students in North Idaho, which included 40 students from EWU and 20 students from Gonzaga University. They joined two other campuses in the area, University of Idaho and University of Montana, to host more than 120 total students.
About half of the total SEEK21 participants were college students, and many were local parishioners. More than 80 parishioners from the Diocese of Spokane participated, including Catholics from St. Mary in Spokane Valley, Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, St. Patrick’s, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Thomas More.
Participation in sacraments is a crucial part of the SEEK experience and by the grace of God, parishioners were able to attend Mass, adore Jesus in eucharistic adoration, and receive confession during the event. More than a few parishioners who received confession said it was their first time in more than a decade. Mass and adoration were provided Thursday and Friday evening at St. Mary’s and St. Francis Xavier. On Saturday, all participants celebrated mass with Bishop Thomas Daly in the morning, and then shared in adoration and confession just before lunch. The groups also participated in the Our Lady of Lourdes novena.
SEEK21 speakers surprised attendees by coming to Washington to give their talks in person. Dr. Edward Sri flew to Spokane and spoke during the day on Feb. 6, presenting a talk on “Walking with Mary” to the parish group, and then “Who am I to Judge” to the college participants.
“Small groups were the lynch pin of SEEK21,” said Jeremy Cassidy, FOCUS regional missionary director, who serves both the parish and college ministries in the Diocese of Spokane. “Many people said the invitation to lead small groups and be encouraged to share life together – especially during these times of isolation – was incredibly life-giving. Several commented that the simplicity of communion over a meal with friends was transformational.”
Cindy Schultz from St. Mary’s Parish said, “At the dawn of the darkest time of the year, during this isolating and divisional pandemic, I needed quiet time in prayer before our Jesus; I needed to hear uplifting spirit-driven words; I needed fellowship. SEEK21 provided what my soul needed. I needed to come home. As Fr. Mike Schmitz said in his keynote, ‘Because home is where we live. Where we can be who we are.’ And it feels so good to be home again resting in his loving embrace.”
Several people signed up for SEEK22, which will take place from Dec. 30, 2021 – Jan. 3, 2022 in Salt Lake City, within driving distance of Spokane. Anyone interested in learning more can visit seek.focus.org/seek22, or contact Jeremy Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org.