By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
More than 80 University of Iowa students traveled to America’s Center Convention Complex in downtown St. Louis earlier this month for the SEEK24 conference. It was “a week full of joy,” said Father Jeffry Belger, priest director of Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. “We were blessed to have such a large group of students, many of them new faces.”
The annual conference, hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), offers participants the opportunity to dive into prayer, adoration, Scripture and the sacraments; hear talks by Catholic speakers; and experience fellowship with friends, old and new. A record 23,000 people attended this year’s conference, according to OSV News.
The University of Iowa delegation included three staff members and five FOCUS missionaries. Newman Center leaders encouraged repeat participants to help first-timers make the most of the experience, Father Belger told The Catholic Messenger.
University of Iowa student Kasey Wainwright enjoyed meeting participants from different backgrounds and hometowns, she said in a video interview with Father Belger. “I had the ability to speak to so many people that I normally wouldn’t have gotten to speak to.” She had a three-hour conversation with participants from Texas and Georgia, sharing testimonies and talking about faith. “It was awesome to see how friendships can form with people who live across the country.”
Newman Center staff and current FOCUS missionaries shared a meal with past and present FOCUS missionaries, some of them University of Iowa graduates now serving elsewhere. “It was like the best family reunion I’ve ever been to — a lot of hugging and sharing of stories,” Father Belger said.
Student Alissa Brummer told Father Belger that eucharistic adoration and confession highlighted her SEEK24 experience. “Watching everyone in the room being in the presence of Jesus was overwhelming; it was beautiful and there were a lot of emotions. I’m really glad I got to experience that.” She grew closer with other Newman Center members during the week and looks forward to their support and accountability as she works to become more active in the life of the Church.
Student Evan Lystiuk told Father Belger that he enjoyed the breakout sessions for men and a presentation by Father Mike Schmitz about praying the Mass. “It’s not necessarily about what we get from the Mass or even what we put into the Mass; we are there to sacrifice ourselves for the Lord,” Lystiuk recalled from Father Schmitz’s talk. This message also resonated with student Jenna King. “A lot of people pick churches based on the music, how it makes them feel… it’s not about us. It’s about Christ!”
Matthew Freedund “fell in love with the rosary” after attending talks on Mary and the rosary during the conference, he told Father Belger. Freedlund wants to be more intentional in praying for students on the University of Iowa campus who don’t know Christ.
Andrew Simaz said biblical scholar Scott Hahn offered a fresh perspective on what it means to follow God’s guidance. “We need a positive plan, not just a rejection of the culture, Simaz said in his interview with Father Belger. “We are the people who love Christ and praise the Lord.”
View reflections on YouTube
Father Belger conducted video interviews with SEEK24 participants from the University of Iowa. See their reflections on the Iowa Catholic YouTube channel.