SEEK21 conference brings Catholics together to form ‘missionary disciples’

ALLOUEZ — Joining fellow Catholics from around the country and beyond for the SEEK21 conference were members of the Diocese of Green Bay. Approximately 100 people gathered Feb. 4-7 at Holy Rosary Church in New Holstein to listen to talks, hold small-group discussions and celebrate Masses with Bishop David Ricken, Fr. John Girotti and Fr. Carl Diederichs.

Catholics participate in a breakout session during the SEEK21 conference Feb. 5 at Holy Rosary Church in Kiel. About 100 people from parishes in Kiel, New Holstein and St. Anna attended the conference, which was part of the national SEEK21 gathering held in Florida and broadcast virtually. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)

Participants ranged in age from 15 to 90, with youth groups and young adult groups gathering separately to discuss the unique aspects of their faith journey, according to Eileen Piper, a member of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel. 

Piper is an alumnus of  Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which hosts the annual SEEK gatherings. The mission of FOCUS is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel with college and university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same.

In Oshkosh, close to 70 students participated in SEEK21 on the UW-Oshkosh campus, according to Kyle Hanson, FOCUS team director. 

“Typically, about half that number (from UW-Oshkosh) would attend the annual national FOCUS event,” said Hanson, “so this new remote conference model allowed us to reach far more parishioners and college students than the typical live model. That’s one example of how God worked and made things even greater through the pandemic.”

Fr. Girotti spent Saturday and Sunday with participants from SS. Peter and Paul in Kiel, St. Ann Parish in St. Anna, and Holy Rosary Parish in New Holstein, where he serves as priest celebrant. Fr. Diederichs is priest celebrant in St. Anna and Kiel.

“I am so grateful that SEEK21 reached out to parishes this year,” said Fr. Girotti, who also serves as vicar for canonical services and is the Catholic Charities & Living Justice mission team leader for the Diocese of Green Bay.

“Here, in small town America, in rural Wisconsin, we had the best Catholic speakers in the country made available to us to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. It warmed my heart during these dark days and it gave me great hope,” he added. “My role was to make the sacraments available to the people who attended the conference. I was able to answer any questions they might have had and I was able to be inspired along with them by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in his church.”

On Saturday night, John Angotti, a Memphis-based singer/songwriter, led the group in music, followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Sunday, Bishop Ricken joined SEEK21 participants for celebration of the closing Mass. 

In his homily Feb. 7, Bishop Ricken told conference participants that the weekend was the culmination of several years of planning. “Three years ago, we met to see how we might bring the mission of FOCUS into the Diocese of Green Bay,” he said. “Today that dream of ours is coming true.”

At the conclusion of Mass, he commissioned those in attendance as missionary disciples, said Piper.

“For the past four years, FOCUS has included the ‘Making Missionary Disciples’ track in our national conference so that those of us ‘post-campus’ could find a space to receive content that suits our states in life and parish roles,” Piper told The Compass in an email. “So this conference was a phenomenal step forward as more than 10,000 parishioners around the world joined SEEK21.”