It was such a blessing to attend as a seminarian and witness the future of the Church. There is great hope for our generation.
When you love someone and strive to know them better, you spend time learning about them, cultivating your relationship, and have a desire to introduce them to others in your life. When that person is Jesus, there are countless ways to deepen your relationship and lead others to Him. If you are called to be a priest, you learn many of those skills in seminary. If you’re one of the 8,000 young adults who braved the brutal Chicago temperatures for last week’s FOCUS SLS18 Conference, you gain insights, tools, and confidence from some of the Catholic Church’s leaders in evangelization.
“I’ve never seen such reverence at a liturgy full of college students,” said Kevin Gregus (PT1, Chicago), “There were a ton of graces that I’ll be carrying with me for quite a while. I definitely left with a ton of hope for the future of the church.”
That hope went both ways, with numerous participants expressing their thankfulness and prayers for the seminarians and priests present at the conference. Hundreds of priests responded to the call to hear the confessions of the thousands of attendees, and of their brother priests.
As he was witnessing the evening unfold, Paul Grandi (3T Tucson) tweeted, “So many people are going to confession right now and so many priests are available I can’t even handle it. So much mercy and grace! Please keep everyone here in prayer tonight, that they may encounter the Lord who loves us.”
The Liturgical Institute was a key sponsor of the conference, which included numerous inspiring talks, daily Mass, Adoration, Confession, and fellowship with people from all over. Rector/President Father John Kartje was a speaker at the conference, as was Dr. Denis McNamara of the Liturgical Institute, and former rector Bishop Robert Barron gave the opening keynote. Numerous alumni priests served at Masses, heard confessions, and witnessed to the joy of the priesthood. Our Chancellor, Cardinal Blase Cupich, celebrated the farewell Mass and challenged everyone to go forth and use what they learned to bring others to Christ. With Mundelein Seminary on Christmas break, more than 20 seminarians were able to attend the conference.
As stated on their website, SLS is a leadership conference which strikes a perfect balance between inspiration and practical application, where attendees gain confidence as leaders and learn more about prayer, evangelization, Bible studies, inviting others into discipleship, and sharing the gospel.
Praying and learning together with thousands of their peers proved to be an inspiring way to start the new year. As Michael Mehringer (PT1 Chicago) remarked, “I’ve had the fire of Christ completely rekindled in my soul.”
The staff of the Liturgical Institute invited attendees to chanted morning and evening prayer each day of the conference, which was a new experience for many. Sung communal celebration of the Sacred Liturgy combines with classroom instruction as part of the Liturgical Institute curriculum, allowing the riches of the Church’s worship to enliven students’ minds with love of the Church and one another. That unique synthesis of prayer and study gives its students — women and men, laity and clergy — the opportunity to form personal and professional relationships that last a lifetime.
Josh Miller (PT1 Fairbanks) appreciated the practical applications of what was shared at the conference, “Our spiritual reserves have been restored and we’ve been equipped with tools for our future flocks. I’ve never experienced a zealousness quite like this,” he said.
May all of us, whether or not we attended the conference, cultivate a deeper love for Christ, and grow in the confidence to proclaim His love for us.
Mundelein seminarians in attendance were Rob Ryan, Cristian Garcia, Pat Wille, Tom Leah, Mike Mehringer, Kevin Gregus, Dan Korenchan, Dan Smyth, David Nowicki, Josh Miller, Alec Lyons, Paul Grandi, Theo McManigal, Jared Kleinwaechter, Jordan Thrun, Arthur Bautista, Rob Johnson, Kevin Ripley, Tom Leah, Michael Block, and Joe Richards.