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SEEK 2023 Reflection: A Painfully Beautiful Experience

Chance White, C'23

Mounties at SEEK 2023

More than 50 Mounties, mostly Catholic but some of other faiths as well, attended the SEEK 2023 conference in early January. Chance White, C'23, reflects on his experience. Photos by Gian Gonzalez.

For the first time since 2019, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) was able to hold its annual SEEK conference entirely in person. The four-day conference took place at the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis—where Pope St. John Paul II once said Mass. Over 50 Mounties, mostly Catholic but some of other faiths as well, attended the event from Jan. 2 to Jan. 6.

seek23_moore-212-1-in-text.jpgThese Mount students joined over 17,000 people at the conference. Attendees had the opportunity to go to Mass, confession, and adoration together, and listen to talks from several popular speakers, including Fr. Mike Shmitz, Paul J. Kim and Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT.

Although FOCUS conferences such as SEEK are most popular among college students, each year thousands of people of all ages, backgrounds, and religions gather to learn about the Catholic faith, connect with others, be inspired and encounter Christ.

For most attendees, the conference is a deeply meaningful event, even leading some to convert to Catholicism. Below, one Mount student, Chance White, C’23, reflects on his experience as an attendee at the 2023 SEEK conference.

Painful is probably not the first word many would use when describing their SEEK experience, yet this is the first word that came to my mind. SEEK was painful but in the most beautiful way. I had been on retreats and conferences like SEEK before and had an absolute blast, and in comparison, this conference was very similar to the others—except that for this time, I was quite sick. I’ll save the details of how sick I was, but for context, I missed the first full day of SEEK and for the rest of the conference I had a headache, upset stomach and body aches. 

Although the pain was mostly constant, so were the graces I experienced. I met amazing people, seemingly at random, while at SEEK. These people saw me, they saw my heart, they talked with me, and they prayed with me. I saw Christ in these people, and it helped me see Christ in my own life. While being prayed over by a group of missionaries, the pain I was feeling in my body seemingly went away without any explanation. Although the aches I was feeling came back later in the day, discouragement did not.  

I went to a talk called “Suffering with Grace,” and the speaker discussed about how beautiful suffering is and how great of an opportunity it is for us to get to know Christ, who suffered so greatly for us all. Every ounce of pain is a prayer we can give to God and every time we pray, God listens. During this conference my heart was screaming “God I can’t do this, it hurts too much” and so He held me and carried me when I could no longer go on my own feet.

A quote that stood out to me from SEEK was from Mother Teresa: “pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow suffering are but the kiss of Jesus—a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” While at SEEK I was reminded that our suffering has a purpose. Our pain has a home with Jesus Christ. We can go to Him with every blister, bruise, heartache or heartbreak, and He is there for us. Even if we do not feel Christ at times, He is closer in those moments than we could ever physically conceive. We are not alone, and we are wanted desperately by Jesus. 

Chance White, C'23