FOCUS missionaries host watch party of virtual conference

Veronica Novotny

Assistant Editor

Students and missionaries met off campus to participate together in SEEK21, a virtual conference Thursday, Feb. 4, through Sunday, Feb. 7, that brought together more than 27,000 people from 20 countries, including college students, parishioners, clergy and others.

The five Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionaries who serve at the university organized an off-campus retreat for Franciscan University of Steubenville students to livestream FOCUS’s annual SEEK conference in a community setting.

Retreat participants drove back and forth between campus and the Steubenville convent of the Daughters of Holy Mary of the Heart of Jesus, known on campus as the Spanish sisters, who rent meeting spaces to student organizations and households for similar weekend retreats.

“The FOCUS missionaries wanted to make it as much like a normal retreat as possible, so we still had Mass, small group time, adoration, confession, but all the talks were streamed live,” said junior Sydney Lorentz, who attended SEEK 2021 and led a small group.

The Rev. Jonathan McElhone, TOR, celebrated an opening Mass Thursday night, and the Rev. Vincent Yeager, TOR, celebrated Mass the rest of the retreat.

Lorentz said that her favorite talk was “by Sarah Swafford about emotional virtue and relationships between men and women.”

“Sr. Bethany Madonna, SV, also gave (a talk) on theology of the body and how it relates to the dignity of the human person,” said Lorentz.

Including Swafford and Madonna’s talks, SEEK21 consisted of five keynote sessions with 10 speakers, and more than 25 breakout session speakers.

Senior Jack Connolly said, “(SEEK) was really fun; I liked it a lot. Everyone left really convicted.”

Connolly said he appreciated the newer, intimate experience of the retreat.

“My favorite part’s a little bit different than everyone else’s,” Connolly said. “I have gone to the FOCUS conferences for the past two years and it was always in a city, in a convention center, with thousands of other people. … This experience was different because it was just with Franciscan. So my favorite part was getting to know more people from Franciscan.”

According to the FOCUS website, the 2019 SEEK conference hosted 17,000 attendees in Indianapolis for four days. Due to COVID-19 related restrictions, SEEK 2021 went virtual.