SEEK 2024 Reflections

One of the great gifts of SEEK is an integration of a supernatural outlook along with excellence in natural things.

The SEEK24 Conference sponsored by FOCUS in St. Louis January 1-5, 2024 was another inspiring event. This was my ninth SEEK conference, with seven experiences of the collegiate track, and two experiences of the parish track called “Making Missionary Disciples”.

This year over 20,000 people attended, which is about 50% more than last year. Dozens of Bishops and hundreds of priests were there. There were ten priests from North Dakota, five from the Diocese of Fargo (Fr. Cheney, Msgr. Schlesselmann, Fr. Haman, Fr. Markman, Fr. Meyer) and five from the Diocese of Bismarck (Msgr. Shea, Fr. Dosh, Fr. Bouck, Fr. Eli, Fr. Grafsgaard). There is an increasing international presence as well, with a Cardinal and bishop from Germany in attendance this year in addition to those from Ireland, Austria and Mexico. I spoke with a priest from the university of Passau, Germany one day, whose city I visited this past September. Its great to run into so many familiar faces, whether they be from seminary, IPF spiritual direction training, past work together in campus ministry, retreats, and common projects and interests. Good conversations were had with Adam Bartlett from Source and Summit, Jackie Mulligan and Dr. Bridget from REFORM Wellness, Kevin Clark ,the architect who designed Holy Cross in West Fargo, Archbishop Aquila, and many past FOCUS Missionary and Newman Center alumni. There is a real web of grace in the broader Catholic church in America. It’s a real encouragement and consolation to see so many priests and parishioners with a vision for mission and evangelization.

One of the great gifts of SEEK is an integration of a supernatural outlook along with excellence in natural things. If we look at our baptismal call to holiness and missionary discipleship, it can seem a bit daunting. The week is carried out in the context of prayer, with a large adoration chapel available, beautiful liturgies with both traditional and contemporary music, and a conscious awareness of the dignity and weight of each and every soul, with zeal for the holiness of all. This is all done while maintaining excellence in the order of nature, with thoughtful planning, well organized publications and technology, reverence for the dignity and needs of human persons, and talks on healing and growth. While keeping excellence in these human things, they are also able to value approaching God with our needs, brokenness, and desires, and that of others, with an attitude spiritual poverty and trust in God’s love for us, which is a great balance and integration indeed.

The keynotes from SEEK24 were recorded and are being published bit by bit at Anyone can go there and hear some of the keynotes. Msgr. Shea’s Keynote on Tuesday January 2nd, titled “The Weight of Our Brokenness” is one of the best talks I have heard in years and was a highlight of the SEEK24 conference for many. Someone at parish council this week said they have listened to it five times so far. It’s a deep reflection on the struggle and battle of humanity. This website will also start posting not just keynotes, but many of the breakout and impact sessions as well as time goes on.

Our Sts. Anne and Joachim group attended the Making Missionary Disciples track each day, which consisted of a number of talks after large and inspiring 8:30 am Mass each day. Gathering with over 1,000 others from parish groups nationwide from 10:30 am – 12:15 pm, these topics ranged from Incarnational Evangelization, Leadership, the High Call, panels with real life parish examples of mission and evangelization, and a delightful stories of mission from Fr. Jeff Lewis, a pastor in Spokane. He gave a great book recommendation, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, which I am currently reading. Our parish group was great, sitting together for keynotes and morning talks, then splitting up for afternoon impact sessions. Suppertime was filled with sharing different nuggets from the afternoon. We even had a few of our seminarians join us for supper on Tuesday.

There were also special roundtable discussions over lunch for parish priests. One of the best was with Msgr. Shea who spoke more about the recently published book from the University of Mary, The Religion of the Day, a sequel to From Christendom to Apostolic Mission. This book has some substantial insights to sharing the faith to the complex post-Christian culture of our day. Msgr. Shea and the University of Mary are emerging as one of the most significant contributors to the public intellectual conversations within the Church. There are some profound and important considerations in this book and the work that Msgr. Shea oversees at the website

Afternoons were full with Impact Sessions, with dozens of speakers and topics to choose from. I really enjoyed hearing talks from the religious priests from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, and sisters from the Sisters of Life. These religious orders are bearing great fruit with the work their priests and sisters are carrying out. Both these orders have great podcasts in “Poco a Poco” and “The Thomistic Institute”, and “Let Love” to hear more about them. I really do hope the talk by Fr. Mark Mary Ames, CFR on God the Father and Sr. Mary Grace, SV on 10 Tips on Living in Peace at all Times will eventually be posted at as well.

Overall, SEEK24 was another refreshing and hopeful experience. I am looking forward to bringing even more ideas and strategy on mission to our parish for fruitful life in Christ during the coming months and years. We will be hosting a site visit for some representatives from FOCUS February 21-23, 2024 to see if we may be a good fit for two FOCUS Parish Missionaries to start being with us as soon as September 2024. We would be one of 53 parishes nationwide who would be part of the growing FOCUS Parish movement.