Last month, at least nine Alaskan young adults joined 13,000 college-aged students from across the nation for a conference that inspired, challenged and awakened their Catholic faith.
The SEEK 2017 conference took place in San Antonio, Tex., Jan. 3-7. The Catholic Anchor spoke with a few of the Alaskan attendees. Below are their personal accounts of how the conference inspired them. Comments are edited for length and clarity.
‘We are called to evangelize’
The conference was incredible. There were students from all over the country and nine of us from Anchorage that I knew of. There was daily Mass each morning. The talks each day were incredible, too. One of my favorites was a short presentation called “The Bible and Church Architecture,” which explained that objective factors exist that make churches look beautiful.
So many gathered in one place had all travelled for the purpose of sharing their love of God and learning about their faith. I love that I am able to have peers from all over the nation who support me in this journey to salvation and for whom I can do the same.
Everyone was telling us that God has a plan for us and we are called to evangelize, so I might as well be prepared to do that.
— Will Garrod, Anchorage (Attending Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.)
Guided by the ‘Compass’
I had been searching for more activities that I could do as a young adult to enrich my faith life. At the conference, I felt validated that God had led me to this moment. The talks were vulnerable and real which demonstrated a true authenticity that is necessary within the Christian lifestyle. Every speaker admitted their past wrongdoings and discussed realistic tips that they used to get their lives on track and keep them Christ centered. My sister Kiana and I were so inspired by the conference that we each got a tattoo of a compass on our arms which serves as a reminder to always let God direct our lives.
— Cierra Houchins, Anchorage
Not settling for mediocrity
In a sense it’s basically World Youth Day but it’s held in America. It is aimed at young adults, and goes much deeper with talks, music, liturgies, etc. Seeing so many people who are your age, who are so fun and so awesome, also taking their faith seriously is inspiring and truly comforting, honestly. It’s nice to have such a large community to look to for support and inspiration.
Nothing can explain the community of SEEK — so many others striving to live life to the fullest and others, who struggle as well, who are searching for a deeper relationship with Christ. Everything at the conference is so real, between the workshops and just the people you meet while walking around. One of my favorite things is how accessible the speakers are and how much they care for everyone. The conference really helps us young adults to go back out and encounter the world head on — not to settle for mediocrity.
— Briana Tobin, Anchorage.
Catholic faith is strong & diverse
I learned a lot from this conference especially about religious life and the different orders and about how to live a chaste life and to find real love. My favorite part was seeing 13,000 fellow Catholic University students at Mass and at adoration and to see how strong and diverse the Catholic faith is. It was an incredible experience and impacted my life. I can’t wait to go to the next SEEK.
— Melanie Shaw, Anchorage (Attending Northern Arizona University)
Alaska seminarian inspired
My seminary class at St. Paul Seminary — nine seminarians total — went together, most of us for the first time. I was also there to promote the Military Archdiocese Vocation effort. The Archdiocese of Military Services had a booth where men could inquire about military chaplaincy. Also, I could attend many of the extraordinary talks from very gifted leaders in the Catholic Church. My favorite was a sister from El Paso, Texas — Sister Miriam James Heidland. She gave great talks on prayer and discernment, forgiveness and healing, and divine intimacy. This conference was unique because it had a seminarian-specific track — talks aimed at the approximately 300 seminarians total in attendance from all over the U.S.
— Madison Hayes, Eagle River (Attending St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.)
‘The world needs what you have’
It was exactly what I needed. After high school, this conference is a great way to spark that spiritual flame. I think it’s easy to lose your faith especially with everything going on in the world. It’s easy to just conform to what the world wants you to be. The talks were amazing and taught me so much. Things I heard that I loved: “The world needs what you have,” “Who you are and why you were created doesn’t change,” “Pleasure and happiness aren’t the same thing: all happiness has pleasure in it, but not all pleasure leads to your happiness.”
— Kiana Houchins, Anchorage