By Alex Pane (Pane is a Sophomore Nursing major from Sugar Land, Texas that attended the New Student Retreat as a table leader. She is also a student worker for St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center. Her primary responsibility is assisting with social media outreach and oversees the BaylorCatholic Blog.)
On January 2-6, 2013 34 students, 3 missionaries and a priest traveled to Orlando, Florida for the national Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) Conference, SEEK. We spent several months fundraising and preparing to attend this national conference. We arrived at the Swan and Dolphin Resort along with 6,200 other college students; you can imagine how packed it was!
We started each day with Mass, it was beautiful to see over a hundred priests process in for Mass. After Mass on the first day we were told, “it’s only going to go downhill from here.” Although the rest of the conference was spectacular, their statement couldn’t be more true! The conference really stressed the importance of the Mass and how it is the pinnacle of our faith.
The patron of our conference was Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a modern saint from Turin, Italy. Pier came from a wealthy family but devoted his life serving the poor; he would bring food and medicine to the poor in hospitals and their homes. He would say, “God gives us health so that we may serve the sick.” In 1925, he contracted polio and died a few days later, at the age of 24. He kept his ministry to the poor to himself so his family was surprised to see more than 1,000 mourners from the lower classes. Pope Blessed John Paul II was inspired by Frassati’s story and his life continued to inspire all the young people at SEEK. Pier Giorgio’s motto was, “To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live, but to ‘get along;’ we must never just ‘get along.’”
We heard great speakers, including Curtis Martin and Edward Sri (the cofounders of FOCUS,) Matthew Kelly and Fr. Michael Keating. There were men and women sessions and although I cannot speak for the men, the women’s speakers were amazing and opened our eyes to the mystery of femininity. We were taught how as women, we have a “feminine genius” that distinguishes us from the rest of creation. The keynote speakers were great and taught us how to live a Christian life in a secular world and how we are made for more than the world offers us.
Friday night we got to experience Adoration and Confession with all the students at the conference. It was a truly amazing experience to be able to worship with so many peers. Confession lasted for four hours and over a hundred priests heard confessions from five thousand students! What a testament to our generation!
I learned so much in just a few days and have been excitedly sharing my new knowledge at home and on campus. I was very excited to go to SEEK but the week exceeded my expectations. I experienced so much growth: in my friendships and my faith and I am blessed to have been able to share this experience with so many beautiful people. This week filled me with hope and reassured me that we can change lives!
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7