The new year brought hope and a renewed sense of mission to California Catholics. On Feb. 4-6, the regional SEEK22 conference in Orange County brought together 700 participants, including students from 13 campuses, 21 priests, four bishops, multiple religious and dozens of benefactors who experienced the hybrid conference hosted by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Students from Cal Berkley, UCSB, USC, UCLA, Cal Tech, UCI, UCR, CSUN, CSULB, CSUF, SDSU and John Paul the Great University gathered at Christ Cathedral, uniting with 22,000 participants across 20 countries experiencing the event in regional locations.

Attendees received the missionary call to explore their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and share the Gospel with peers through engaging speakers, sacraments and entertainment throughout the weekend. In particular, “CA SEEK22” took local to a new level, elevating a sense of pride for being Catholic in California from individual to deeply communal.

Participants had the privilege of celebrating Mass with Bishop Kevin Vann and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer, along with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Mark Trudeau and Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan. Dynamic speakers like Emily Wilson and Fr. Mike Schmitz presented keynotes via livestream and inspired attendees to live a life of virtue and mission.

Abby Merkel, a third year at UCSB and a Santa Margarita native, said, “My favorite talk from SEEK22 was from Fr. Mike Schmitz. His conviction that Catholics cannot just be good people, but must save souls, has stayed with me since leaving the conference. SEEK22 encouraged me to be bolder in how I live the faith and encourage others to
get to Heaven.”

California had eight local speakers take the stage Saturday, covering a variety of topics from guardian angels to masculinity to renouncing modern-day idols. Students were awestruck on Friday night as San Diego-based illusionist, Danny Ray, captivated audiences with his Gospel-infused illusions.

The local theme of SEEK rang true with the central gathering space: Mission Way. SoCal clothing companies, a Santa Barbara-based coffee roaster, religious orders and the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology all represented the diversity and creativity California Catholics offer to the Church.

Because the conference was local, one participant was able to bring his mother to the closing Mass on Sunday. Through his encouragement and the Lord’s grace, she returned to confession after 39 years away. She joined over 600 other confessions heard throughout the weekend.

Most of the confessions were heard during the climatic Saturday evening of keynote speakers, Msgr. James Shea and Sr. Miriam James, SOLT, followed by a night of adoration in the beloved Christ Cathedral.

“SEEK, for me, in a word, is discovery,” explains CSUF Chaplain, Fr. Florante Moren. “It is discovering what else we can do and how we can grow our faith deeper. It is discovering ways to engage more of ourselves to a divine relationship with the Lord.”

With hundreds of college students returning to campus having had a zealous fire lit within, the grace of these new discoveries will surely carry throughout campus cultures. Many students committed to returning to Mass, joining a Bible study, saying yes to missionary discipleship, and most importantly, diving deeper in intimacy with Jesus Christ and His Church.

FOCUS Missionaries across California will continue to challenge students to grow in relationship with the Lord and with those around them, ultimately leading to knowing Christ Jesus and fulfilling His Great Commission.

Photos and videos from the CA SEEK event are at instagram.com/focus.california. Registration for SEEK23 Jan. 2-6, 2023, in St. Louis, Missouri, is already open at seek.focus.org.http://seek.focus.org