INDIANAPOLIS — Tears filled Missy Brassie’s eyes as she talked about the most emotional part of the five-day SEEK2019 conference involving more than 17,000 young adult Catholics from around the world.
It happened the evening of Jan. 5 in a massive ballroom of the Indiana Convention Center during the conference established to give participants the opportunity to deepen their encounter with Jesus.
“All of these people coming together for eucharistic adoration is the best part of the conference,” said Brassie, 31, a Denver resident who returned to Indianapolis, her hometown, for the gathering sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, known as FOCUS.
“Surrounded by thousands of their peers during adoration, they feel that they’re not alone in their faith, and they feel that they’re personally spoken to by the Lord,” she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. “People say that everyone around them disappears. It’s just Jesus and that person in that moment.”
The overwhelming emotion Brassie experienced has happened before at SEEK conferences. This year’s event, held Jan. 3-7, was her eighth.
“My relationship with Jesus is always deepened here,” Brassie said. “Even though I’ve been to so many conferences, there is always something that renews me.”
Brassie has been a FOCUS missionary for the last seven years, striving to bring college students to a deeper relationship with God at the University of Illinois, Texas A&M University and Ave Maria University in Florida. She also works at the FOCUS headquarters, based in the Denver area.
Her role as one of the nearly 700 missionaries in 159 worldwide locations has led her to interactions with a wide range of people, from international students who have no knowledge of Jesus to lifelong Catholics seeking to become closer to him. No matter their background, her conversations involve asking people two defining questions.
“I say, ‘Do you know that God loves you? Do you know he has a plan for you?’“ she explained. “Our conversations go from the basic level to deep discussions. That has been really cool. I don’t have to have all the answers because Jesus loves them.”
Other attendees were pleased to share their faith and return to their daily lives with a renewed sense of inspiration and awe in God.
Nigerian Timi Soyoola, 20, couldn’t pass up the invitation to attend.
“I was coming on a flight from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis after visiting my uncle, and a lady was talking to me about this conference,” said Soyoola, a senior pre-med student at Indiana University in Kokomo. “It’s a new year, and I wanted to try something new. I wanted to learn more about my faith.”
It didn’t matter to Soyoola that she didn’t know anyone else at the conference. After all, Soyoola — whose full first name, Oluwatimilehin, basically translates to “God’s got my back” — already knew she could count on one person.
“Jesus is the person I depend on,” she said, her eyes and her smile lighting up. “When you come to a new country, you don’t know anyone. He’s the one I depend on. He’s the most important person in my life.”
The opportunity to deepen their faith drew Josh and Katie Fatzinger from their home in Flagstaff, Arizona. The young married couple arrived at the conference with their 1-year-old daughter, Ellie, and other family members. Katie is expecting the couple’s second child in February.
“I’m here with my mother, my wife, one of my sisters and three of my brothers,” said Josh, 27. “I’m from a big Catholic family, one of 14. I encouraged my younger brothers to come because it was a great experience for me when I came in 2013. It’s a great place to encounter a lot of people, and we’re all here to encounter Christ.”
Standing by Ellie’s stroller, Katie looked around the crowd at the convention center and noted, “There’s all the hope you see and all the excitement. It’s very uplifting. It’s really powerful to celebrate the sacraments and be with that many people praising God. I’m waiting to see how he can impact their lives.”
Louis Cain held the same hope as he led a group of 60 students from McNeese State University in Louisiana during the conference that featured opportunities for Mass, confession and eucharistic adoration as well as faith-related workshops, inspirational speakers and entertainment by Catholic musicians. In his third year as a FOCUS missionary, Cain embraced the opportunity to bring other young adults to a stronger relationship with Jesus.
“It’s really cool to have this time in my life when I’m trying to get closer to Jesus and help others to do the same 24/7,” Cain said. “One thing that’s cool about being here is that you realize you’re not alone. Everyone is here to grow in their faith. It’s pretty amazing.”
Cain maintained that positive attitude as he answered a question about how he thinks the clergy sexual abuse crisis has affected young adults’ perspectives of the church and their faith.
“Our church needs healing,” he said. “In times of crisis in the church, great saints rise up. We need to have saints rise up in our church. It should motivate us to live our faith more seriously.”
Amy Gasper, 19, a sophomore at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, felt much the same.
“You get to see how hungry people are for the Lord. It makes my heart leap for joy,” she said. “There are people here who are wanting to devote their life to God and grow in their relationship with him.”
She said the conference allows her to grow her faith.
“I know I’m alive for one reason, and that’s to answer God’s call for my life. It’s a never-ending joy. So many people search for that. You have to let God take over your life for the good.”
The author, John Shaughnessy, is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.