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Faithful seek spirit of Christ at national conference

Faithful seek spirit of Christ at national conference - (30-01-2023)

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PHOTO: Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Nancy Rose Gucwa, OSB (left) and Sister Maria Victoria Cutaia, OSB met a familiar face - the most reverend James V. Johnston Jr., bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, while at SEEK23 in January in St. Louis.

“It was me and 17,000 of my closest friends.”

Those were the words shared with a chuckle by Sister Maria Victoria Cutaia, OSB after attending SEEK23, a conference for college students, parish groups, families and religious hosted by FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) in January in St. Louis.

Celebrating the theme of “Diving into the heart of the Gospel and exploring how to answer Christ’s call in every moment,” the event was essentially a call to mission and centered on five days of prayer, fellowship, inspiration and entertainment.

Joining Sister Maria Victoria was Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa, OSB who serves on the general council and as development director for the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Sister Nancy Rose, a member of the first graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that included women, was particularly fond of the military lunch panel. The event included students from the U.S. military academies and a panel of participants who shared how those in the military live and share their faith.

Sister Maria Victoria, the congregation’s vocation director, enjoyed meeting with young people thirsty for knowledge about religious life, especially as this was the first in-person FOCUS conference since the pandemic began.

“I enjoyed spending time in our vocation booth,” she said. “There seemed to be a hype, more energy by being together again.”

She also spent time collaborating with and mentoring other vocations directors and women religious who belong to communities no longer taking new vocations.

“God is still calling people to our way of life,” Sister Maria Victoria said, “so it’s important we continue to give them the tools to navigate their discernment journey.”

Among the presentations included at the conference, was one by Argentinian Father John Ignatius Ezratty, MC who serves as the FOCUS national chaplain. A fellow native of Argentina, Sister Maria Victoria was excited to hear what he and others were saying about religious life and discernment.

Sister Nancy Rose was inspired by Sister Bethany Madonna, SV who spoke about who Christ is for each person.

“I also appreciated the fact that the event included Mass every day,” she added.

Sisters Nancy Rose and Maria Victoria ran into a familiar face - the most reverend James V. Johnston Jr., bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, while at the event.

“We were in this huge stadium with thousands of people,” Sister Maria Victoria said. “I turned around and there he was, sitting just a couple of rows behind us!”

For more information on SEEK23 and future conferences, please visit https://seek.focus.org.