If you look at the data on young people’s relationship with religion, it’s easy to get discouraged. About 80% of Millennials who were raised Catholic have left the Church, and a survey shows that the percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the overall U.S. adult population.
But is it all doom and gloom? No. There are certainly beacons of hope in our young Church, perhaps none more so than the SEEK Conference put on by FOCUS (The Fellowship of Catholic University Students). In 2019, more than 17,000 people gave up a chunk of their winter break to spend time encountering Our Lord.
This year’s conference is taking place this weekend (February 4-7), and even though the pandemic has prevented tens of thousands of young people from gathering in person, FOCUS has found a way to keep community at the core of their conference.
Eileen Piper, Chief of Staff of Parish Outreach at FOCUS, joined Jake Moore in an episode of our Premier Podcast to share how and why SEEK21 was able to stay true to the core of their mission, despite the restrictions that Covid presented this year.
Jake noted that this year’s conference is a little different than in years past, and Eileen said, “You say it’s a little different. It’s a lot different. But the core of what it is remains exactly the same. … We’ve taken the very best from virtual conferences and the very best from in-person conferences and created a small group conference.”
This weekend small groups across the country will gather in whatever way their local health guidelines allow (for some that is a Zoom small group, for others a small group can meet in a home or school setting) to experience SEEK21 together, and grow in their relationship with the Lord and with each other.
“The beauty of FOCUS’ SEEK conference is that it is designed for people to grow deeper in their faith and to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus Christ, regardless of where they’re at in their faith journey,” Eileen said. “So if I’m brand new and trying to figure out whether Jesus is even real, or if I’m actually pretty mature within my faith, the Holy Spirit just moves through SEEK. It’s this invitation for people to go deeper and deeper.”
Eileen explained why community is a key aspect of the SEEK conference, and why it was so important to keep that element as part of this year’s event.
“There’s something pretty extraordinary about SEEK, because you go deeper in relationship with others,” she said. “The Holy Spirit just really moves. And it’s not only growing deeper in my faith for myself, but FOCUS’ secret sauce is that they then teach you how to share the faith with others in a way that’s very comfortable and very based in relationship.”
After a year in which young people may have felt isolated from others and disconnected from their faith, the SEEK conference is an opportunity to reconnect with the Lord, re-engage with the faith, and learn from many powerful and inspiring Catholic speakers.
“We’re going to have the best of the best at this conference,” Eileen said of this year’s speakers. “It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be a glorious conference, focusing on God’s love and mercy, which is going to be so healing in these times.”
For those who attended SEEK21 and are looking to hear more from their favorite keynote speakers, or for those who were unable to attend but are looking to deepen their faith, Relevant Radio® has a gift for you!
In partnership with FOCUS, Relevant Radio is offering the Premier Podcast, featuring interviews with SEEK21 speakers such as Sarah Swafford, Dr. Edward Sri, Sr. Bethany Madonna, and more! Each podcast episode focuses on a different topic that is relevant to the lives of Catholics, from faith and vocation to evangelization and life as a FOCUS missionary.
Check out the Premier podcast, or share it with a young person in your life!