Diocese of Lake Charles
Adoration is a huge part of Katie OBrion’s faith journey, and she owes it all to attending her first SEEK conference eight years ago when she was 18.
That is why OBrion was excited to be a part of SEEK22 in Dallas earlier this month with more than 50 “Cowboy Catholics” who joined nearly 1,000 college students from 14 campuses across Louisiana and Texas.
SEEK22 is the annual conference hosted by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), a collegiate apostolate with missionaries who share the Gospel on numerous campuses in the U.S. and around the world. OBrion is one of those missionaries for students at McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College.
“SEEK changed my life,” said OBrion, now 26 and serving her third year as a FOCUS missionary for Cowboy Catholics.
“It was really Jesus who changed my life, but it was in that moment of adoration. For me to be sitting there eight years later and look around and see other college students of all ages so vulnerable before the Lord, praising Him and opening their hearts to Him was incredibly moving for me,” she said.
Maria Fontenot, a McNeese sophomore, was among those students and said it was powerful to see the number of college students standing up for their faith.
“It is a lot to ask of a college student to give up their entire weekend, but it was a great way to reach out and realize there are other students all around me who are also striving for holiness outside of Lake Charles,” Fontenot said, noting that adoration was her favorite time spent at SEEK.
“Nothing is more powerful than Jesus. It was a good reminder that the Lord loves us where we are,” she said. “He is so merciful. Anytime we fall away from him, He continuously calls us back to Him over and over. Adoration was a beautiful experience seeing so many college students packed into a room together all in awe of the Lord present in the Eucharist.”
Fontenot credits the Newman Center at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish for holding her accountable to her faith.
“Having a support system and other people who have the same goal of pursuing sainthood has been a good experience here at McNeese,” she said.
One of the breakout sessions, “10 Tips on How to Trust God,” led by Sister Agnes, a Sister of Life, was practical advice that could apply to anyone at any stage of their life, said Fontenot. She also enjoyed a talk called “Catholic Dating 101. “The speaker shared some good advice about dating with a Catholic mindset. It was a packed session with standing room only.”
Gabe Broussard, a sophomore at Sowela, said it was his first time attending a SEEK conference.
“I was excited to be with my fellow college students and see other people my age who want to be closer to the Lord and are excited to be Catholic,” said Broussard. “During one of the breakout sessions, I enjoyed the talk on the importance of living in the present moment and not putting off what we can do today, especially when living out our faith.”
McNeese senior Melisa Jimenez backed out of going to SEEK last year when she heard it was going to be virtual because of COVID, but she decided to attend this year since it was her last opportunity to go with her college friends.
“Ever since SEEK, I have been trying to attend daily Mass more often. Whenever it comes to Jesus, it has been easier to say yes to my faith,” said Jimenez. She is especially grateful to a FOCUS missionary who started discipling her when she was a sophomore.
“Knowing that she had faith in me, knowing I was capable of evangelizing, going to adoration, and going to Mass on my own … She helped kick start that conversion in me of wanting more,” Jimenez recalled.
Reed Rougeau, a McNeese junior, encourages any college students who get the chance to attend SEEK to do so.
“It’s a very friendly atmosphere with a joyful environment,” he said. “It was a good opportunity to make friends with people who are part of Cowboy Catholics that I did not already know.”
Rougeau said he has been reflecting a lot on a talk by Dr. Edward Sri, one of the keynote speakers.
“I enjoyed his talk on virtue. Dr. Sri said we should not wait until we are in our vocation to live a life of virtue. We should start now and prepare ourselves for the vocation God has intended for each of us. The way he talked about it was phenomenal,” said Rougeau.
Confession was also a turning point for Rougeau, noting the priest reminded him that everything we have in this life is a gift. “I feel like I have a lot more capacity to love, a deeper love for everyone around me rather than just the people I know,” he said.
Father Paul Jussen, the chaplain for Cowboy Catholics at Our Lady of Good Counsel was among 20 priests hearing confessions for three hours straight on Saturday evening.
“God’s mercy was flowing. It moves my heart knowing these young people are experiencing God’s love in the sacraments,” said Father Jussen. “Our young people were positively impacted by SEEK. They learned a lot about their faith and how to live it out in the world.”
When the students were not listening to the keynote speakers or attending breakout sessions, they had the opportunity to participate in SEEK22’s Mission Way. It was a format for students to learn more about various service opportunities, religious orders, and other Catholic organizations. Some included Christ in the City, the Capuchin Friars, the Sisters of Life, the Dominican Friars, and the Legionaries of Christ.
“SEEK takes the students out of their everyday lives and brings them into this environment where they are able to take a weekend and grow in good Catholic community,” said OBrion, “a place where they are received, and where seeds are planted. It’s a time to show them they are not alone on their journey to grow in their faith.”
More than 50 “Cowboy Catholics” from McNeese State University attended the SEEK22 Fellowship of Catholic University Students annual conference in Dallas the weekend of Feb. 4-6. Father Paul Jussen, chaplain for the Cowboy Catholics at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Lake Charles said the students set a good example and represented the Diocese of Lake Charles very well. (Photo credit: Matthew Johnson / Cowboy Catholics)