Let me first explain why I did not want to go to SEEK in the first place.
Towards the beginning of the academic year, as I was starting my second year in the seminary for the Archdiocese of New York, I got an email asking me if I wanted to go to this Catholic conference in Nashville, Tennessee. It was left up for grabs for any of the seminarians to go to. I had been to some Catholic youth/young adult events in my life which made me able to say I had been to enough. Not to mention when I was told I would have a fourteen-hour bus ride ahead of me, I was not exactly excited.
It then became evident that nobody had signed up because our seminary’s vice rector, Fr. Luke Sweeney, asked me personally to go. Considering that one of my many qualities is my inability to say “no” to things that I want to say “no” to, I told him to sign me up! I walked away realizing that I had gotten myself into quite a mess because I would have to sacrifice a week of my free time to go down to Nashville as a representative of the Archdiocese of New York.
All of a sudden the months that were left until SEEK turned into weeks, and the weeks into days. I had read the list of speakers and performers who would be going to SEEK, and I was getting excited. Maybe “excited” is not a good enough word – I was on the edge of my seat. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know whom I was going to meet, and I didn’t care – somehow I knew that this was going to be a special week.
As we piled into the bus, I began to befriend the people around me (that being said, you better be friends with the other people if you’re going to spend fourteen hours in a box on wheels with them). As we got to the hotel, I was blown away with the magnitude of the venue, as were the 10,000 people around me. As we went to Mass, I was moved by the number of people who were there. As we got into our hotel room that night, my brother seminarian, Steven, and I looked at each other and said that this was going to be a great week.
After saying all of that, I hadn’t really had the time of my life yet (Man after half a day? You’ve got to be kidding!), until the seminarians had our own breakout session. This is when I took a whole new look at our Church, evangelization, and the salvation of souls in a now easier way. Curtis Martin came and spoke to the seminarians (100-200 of us), and broke down just how FOCUS works and how the new evangelization is so incredibly possible, not easy, but possible. He told us that there is no formula to have the whole world evangelized by the end of the day, week, year or even decade. The apostles couldn’t do it; the past popes couldn’t do it; and neither can you or I. What he did say, however, is that we can evangelize two people. If we spend a whole year with two people, if we win them for Christ and to Christ, and we build them up for a whole year of how to win other people, then after the year send them off to win two of their own for a whole year, and repeat the process, it can be done. Now the natural thought is, how are my two friends and I going to save the world? Let’s do some math. Let’s say you kept this process up for three years, my two friends would have each got two friends – who would have each got two friends – you would have14 people; not a lot, but a start. If you really keep it up for the next twenty-five years, you will have over 33 million people. If you want to change the world, you have to put in the time to change just one soul.
I must say, every once in a while I see something that inspires me to become a priest. When you spend some time in the seminary, it can be easy to lose the flame you have for Christ every once in a while. Everywhere I turned during SEEK, I saw an inspiration. I saw a line for confession that never went shorter than 100 people. I saw young men and women asking different religious what their order is about because they themselves are discerning consecrated religious life. I saw a processional line for Mass that had hundreds of priests in it. I saw a perpetual adoration chapel that was full every day (with hundreds of chairs set up inside). I saw over 200 priests hearing confessions at the same time. Most importantly, I saw close to 10,000 young people singing praises to our Lord for hours. I saw the Holy Spirit working in the lives of people who needed His grace and love.
So, how did SEEK 2015 change my life? The answer is simple: I experienced God and His children being with each other, and there is no sight that is more beautiful than that of somebody encountering God.