“Seek and you shall find;
knock and the door shall be opened unto you.”Matthew 7:7
More than 20,000 college students, priests, religious brothers and sisters and campus ministers attended the 2024 SEEK conference in St. Louis Jan. 1-5. Among those were 22 Newman University students as well as Father Adam Grelinger and Assistant Director of Campus Ministry and the Honors Program Emily Simon, all of whom traveled together by bus.
The five-day conference gave attendees the chance to witness live presentations from renowned Catholic speakers like Father Mike Schmitz, Emily Wilson and Jason Evert and meet Catholic students and organizations from across the globe.
For freshman Steven Brown, a theater major, meeting Schmitz was “really something special.”
“When people talked about meeting St. Pope John Paul II back in the day, they described this sort of light from him,” Brown said. “I could feel that vibe from Father Mike Schmitz because he’s influenced so many people with the ‘Bible in a Year’ podcast. Through that podcast, he’s helped me become more holy and motivated to follow God as a Catholic.”
“It was pretty amazing,” Simon said. “We also ran into a couple of Newman alumni, including seminarians who are attending Kenrick, like Koby Nguyen and Conrad Sissell) and Karen Do.”
For Brown, other highlights included attending Mass at The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, meeting author Jason Evert and receiving a signed copy of his book “Male, Female, Other?” and growing in friendship with fellow students Austin Fullerton, Charles Morrison, An Tran and Zeke Oberley. He also described a moving, two-hour-long Adoration session shared with thousands of people simultaneously.
“Even though we were kneeling on concrete, Adoration felt like it flew by,” Brown said. “People were crying and saying ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’ (meaning ‘Long Live Christ the King!’). It was a powerful moment and I could feel the Lord speak to me in a way.”
Newman senior and seminarian Colby McKee experienced the same profound impact from Adoration.
“One of my biggest takeaways was the beauty of being able to see 20,000 people in this massive stadium and all of these people are seeking out Christ in an intentional way by being at SEEK,” he said.
McKee was also struck by the prominent theme of God’s mercy throughout the five days.
“One circumstance was when Chris Stefanick spoke of his grandmother-in-law converting at her deathbed after he spoke of the good thief on the cross next to Jesus being forgiven,” McKee said. “The other was when a speaker spoke of simply talking to a friend who was dealing drugs and deep in sin. He told him that God’s mercy was enough, God loves you, and he wants to forgive you. He turned his whole life around.”
McKee added, “Sometimes we think we are not worth being saved or we’re too far gone, but these are lies. We are very good according to our creator himself and he died for us because we are worth it. He loves us.”
Brown echoed McKee’s thoughts, reflecting on how the self-improvement journey can drive people to “always want to get better.”
“And I’m definitely one of those people,” Brown said. “But sometimes we forget that part of the journey of growing closer to God is realizing that God loves you right now. You don’t have to go out and do amazing stuff and then he’ll love you. He loves you here and now, he always has and he always will, and through him you can do anything.”
Brown’s faith has grown exponentially as a Newman University student, in a big part thanks to Campus Ministry, he said.
“I’ve never appreciated Mass as much as I do now,” Brown. “I’m looking forward to more opportunities to grow in my faith at Newman.”
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