Local students inspired to love, live God's mission at SEEK2019
By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
The SEEK2019 Conference Jan. 3-7 in Indianapolis, Ind., gathered upward of 17,000 college students from across the nation for a chance to reconnect with God, discover his plan for their lifelong mission and how to live that plan with enthusiasm.
“My biggest takeaway from the conference was the understanding of God’s infinite love for not only his people, but also for me,” said attendee Abigail Rafael, parishioner of St. Joseph, Toms River.
SEEK is hosted by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, which offers the five-day experience almost every year, featuring dozens of prominent Catholic speakers and entertainers. FOCUS is a Catholic outreach whose mission is to share the Gospel with the world.
Speakers for this year’s conference included Catholic evangelists Jason and Chrystalina Evert, Chris Stefanick and Father Mike Schmitz; Catholic radio host Jennifer Fulwiler; Dr. Scott Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville professor and author; Dr. Edward Sri, Dr. Timothy Gray and Dr. Jonathan Reyes of the Augustine Institute; and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, among many others. In addition to the talks, Adoration, Confession and Mass were available each day of the conference.
Rafael had never attended a FOCUS event prior to SEEK2019. A sophomore public relations major at Kean University, Union, she said her campus minister encouraged her to attend and supported her fundraising efforts.
“Dr. Gray gave a talk called ‘Can You Trust God?,’ which intrigued me as it was a question I myself have struggled with all my life,” she noted. “[He] made it possible for me to realize that all this time God had been willing moral goodness in the Bible and in my own life. The talk made me realize I could trust God, and everything he does and did for me was because of his infinite love.”
Angelo Falabella, a member of St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, and senior in engineering at Stevens Institute, Hoboken, also attended the conference as a newcomer. His past experience with the National Catholic Youth Conference as a high-schooler was so positive, that when the opportunity came to join a group of Stevens students going to SEEK2019, he jumped.
“Probably one of the most impactful talks for me was by Dr. Reyes,” Falabella recalled. “He gave a men’s talk and spoke a lot about discipleship as men – how we’re called, the obstacles to faith and how to overcome them.” Dr. Reyes is executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“[Dr. Reyes talked about] starting every day as a battle for Christ,” Falabella said. “One thing he said that really hit me is, ‘it’s the only battle in the world you win simply by enduring.’”
One big takeaway for Falabella that he hopes to implement was the value of “surrounding yourself with a brotherhood of Catholic men, to really lift each other up … I’m already talking with the guys here to get a men’s group going at Stevens.”
Rafael is certain that God working through the conference speakers and participants helped her realize God sees her as an individual.
“I am overjoyed by this realization,” she said, “and aspire to share this good news with all my brothers and sisters in Christ so that they, too, may know the truest love of them all: God.”