February 4, 2022

Faith weekend for college students hopes to create more ‘beautiful glory stories’

By John Shaughnessy

SEEK22 Conference logo
Sean Hussey calls them “beautiful glory stories”—and one of his favorites involved a few hundred young adults on a summer evening in 2021.

The story unfolded in a Knights of Columbus hall in Indianapolis for Theology on Tap, an informal gathering of young adults who embrace their Catholic faith or who are interested enough to want to know more about it in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.

The theme of the evening centered around the Good News of Jesus Christ for those who aren’t perfect—“which is all of us,” says Hussey, the interim director of the archdiocese’s Young Adult and College Campus Ministry which hosts Theology on Tap.

As part of that evening, Father Rick Nagel, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, gave a talk on the mercy of Jesus and Christ’s extension of mercy to people in the sacrament of reconciliation.

“We actually had an opportunity with several priests right after that Theology on Tap for anyone to go to the sacrament of confession if they wanted to,” Hussey recalls. “And for the next two hours, we had people going to all the priests for confession non-stop.

“I heard some beautiful glory stories of people who had been away from the Church, away from the sacraments for over a decade. And because they showed up at that Theology on Tap and were moved by the message of mercy, they decided to come back to the Church, to receive the Lord’s mercy in the sacrament of confession. That’s a beautiful glory story.”

Hussey is hoping a new collection of such stories will be created this weekend—Feb. 4-6—as 220 college students from six Indiana colleges come together to deepen their faith.

Seeking a deeper faith

The event this time is the archdiocese’s in-person gathering in connection with the national and virtual SEEK22 Conference that is put on annually by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

In a normal year, about 20,000 college students attend the national SEEK conference. But this year—as it did last year—conference organizers at the national level have chosen to hold the event in a hybrid format because of concerns about COVID-19.

“Not everybody will come to one central location. Rather, SEEK will be experienced by the same number of folks or even more folks all throughout the country,” Hussey says. “When we heard the news, our office saw this as being a great opportunity to support all of our college campuses in the archdiocese, in particular those colleges that have FOCUS missionaries on them.”

And so the archdiocese’s young adult ministry staff—Hussey, assistant director Meagan Morrisey and event and volunteer coordinator Emily Mastronicola—has planned an in-person, regional SEEK conference at Country Lake Christian Retreat in the southern Indiana community of Underwood.

College students will be coming from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana University in Bloomington, University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, and Butler University, Marian University and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, all in Indianapolis.

While the national SEEK organizers want people to take advantage of the speakers and presentations during the virtual conference, “they really do encourage people to not just watch on the couch, but to do it communally,” Hussey says.

“Nothing can replace being in person with other people. As good as programs, videos or livestream can be, those things can’t love people. Those things can’t make disciples. Only people can. So there’s a real value in being in-person. Not to mention we have to be in-person for the sacraments—to be able to receive the Eucharist, to receive absolution for our sins in the sacrament of confession.”

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson will celebrate Mass for participants on Sunday morning while Bishop Joseph M. Siegel of Evansville will celebrate Mass on Saturday morning. A number of priests will also be available throughout the weekend to hear confessions.

The weekend will also feature time for prayer, fellowship, musical entertainment and eucharistic adoration.

“There will also be a lot of opportunities for leisure and some fun, for all these students from different colleges to come together, to get to know one another and to have a good weekend,” Hussey says. “It’s going to create a really good experience for them.”

Finding happiness in the hope of Jesus

Another experience that is being offered at the archdiocese’s SEEK conference comes from the archdiocesan Offices of Evangelization and Catechesis.

About 15 people plan to participate in the “Making Missionary Disciples” track of the conference, with the track being open to “anyone that is older than college students who are living in parishes and want to help evangelize their peers.”

One of the hopes of the weekend for these 15 participants and the 220 college students is to help them become “empowered, encouraged and equipped to share the hope of Jesus Christ with our communities,” noted an invitation to the archdiocese’s conference.

“This conference is about encountering the person of Jesus Christ for the first time, or to encounter Jesus anew,” Hussey says. “I hope the students will experience and recognize their identity in Jesus Christ, as sons and daughters of God.”

As the college students open themselves to encountering Jesus this weekend, Hussey sees the potential for more “beautiful glory stories.”

“Young people are experiencing a restless heart,” Hussey says. “They are constantly pursuing happiness and peace and comfort in the things of the world—and being constantly let down. That’s the human experience for so many of us, not just young people.

“People desire to be happy. Whether we know it or not, that desire for happiness is ultimately a longing for God. It is only God that can fulfill the longing that our heart desires.” †

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