The University of Dallas FOCUS missionaries took 40 students to the national FOCUS-run SEEK conference in Dallas the weekend of Feb. 4-6.
Rachel Zayas, the head of the FOCUS team at UD, said, “[SEEK’s] goal is to provide a space for students, young adults and parishioners alike to encounter Jesus Christ.”
SEEK attendees participated in a weekend of prayer, worship and fellowship. There were opportunities for students to receive the sacraments, as well as listen to keynote and breakout talks virtually and in person.
“SEEK helped me in growing more comfortable in the silence but most of all it’s given me this new fire within me to not let what Jesus Christ did for me and everyone on the Cross end with me,” said Mariana Toro Yehya, a junior biology major who attended SEEK for the first time.
“We have to live by example and imitate Christ and grow in virtue so that we are able to love those around us the way they deserve to be loved.”
Headlining keynote speakers for the conference included Father Mike Schmitz, Jason Evert and Sister Miriam James Heiland, as well as many others.
Zayas said, “Locally, we’ve got a fabulous woman named Chica Anyanwu who is a national speaker as well as some of our local chaplains and priests and some of our staff from FOCUS.”
This year, the conference structure changed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Zayas explained that SEEK was originally going to be held in Salt Lake City, but the FOCUS organization determined that it was not safe to gather such a large group together. The events team adjusted to a hybrid format and streamed the content from Denver to satellite locations across the country. Zayas noted that the Dallas location had approximately 1,300 attendees from 15 schools in Texas and Louisiana.
Throughout the weekend, students came together to help each other draw closer to the Lord.
“The best part was confession. I stood in line for an hour and 30 [minutes] and there were so many times when I wanted to leave the line because it was getting late and I was feeling tired,” Toro Yehya said. “I’m so glad that people in line with me started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet out loud and everyone joined in, that gave me the extra jolt of energy I needed to get to the priest who heard my confession.”
Aside from offering the opportunity for students to attend SEEK, the FOCUS missionaries are on campus during the semester to help students deepen their relationship with God, primarily through group Bible studies.
President Jonathan Sandford said, “Their job is to invite those who are interested in knowing our Lord more deeply and understanding Scripture more deeply to be part of their Bible studies.”
The community built through the Bible studies allowed the missionaries to invite many students to attend SEEK. Even though the conference fell on the same weekend as UD’s Groundhog Party in the Park, the group was still sizable. Since the conference took place in Dallas, students were able to attend the daytime sessions and still return to campus to celebrate Groundhog if they desired.
Zayas encourages all UD students to reach out if they are interested in joining a FOCUS Bible study.