January 18, 2019

Keep bringing Christ to others, Denver archbishop says

Colleen Tragonski, center, kneels with other young people in prayer on Jan. 6 during a Mass at the SEEK2019 conference that drew 17,000 mainly college students from across the country to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. “The Holy Spirit is so present here, everywhere in the atmosphere,” Tragonski said. “That’s the best way that I can put it.” (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Colleen Tragonski, center, kneels with other young people in prayer on Jan. 6 during a Mass at the SEEK2019 conference that drew 17,000 mainly college students from across the country to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. “The Holy Spirit is so present here, everywhere in the atmosphere,” Tragonski said. “That’s the best way that I can put it.” (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila saw in the 17,000 mostly college students attending SEEK2019 in Indianapolis “a great sign of hope for the Church, that the Church is alive and well among young people.”

He celebrated Mass on Jan. 6 for the participants in the biennial conference sponsored by the Denver-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

Founded in 1998, FOCUS seeks to nurture the Catholic faith in college students. In the 2018-19 academic year, it has nearly 700 missionaries serving on 153 college campuses in 42 states and five international locations.

Archbishop Aquila remarked in his homily during the Mass that he was briefly “playing hooky” from the retreat taking place for bishops in the U.S. at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago to celebrate the Mass in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

This year’s SEEK gathering is the sixth such conference that Archbishop Aquila has attended.

“Certainly you can see the deep faith in the young people,” he said in an interview after the liturgy. “What their encounter with Christ has brought about is palpable. When you give young people the truth of Christ and Christ as the light and the one who gives meaning to life, it changes everything.”

In his homily for the Mass celebrated on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord that recalls the adoration by the magi of the Christ Child, Archbishop Aquila recalled the first reading from Isaiah in which the prophet said that “darkness covers the Earth. Thick clouds cover the peoples. But upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory” (Is 60:2).

He noted that “darkness covers our Earth” today in consumerism, incivility and of the “sin by certain members of the clergy.”

“All of that can, at times, discourage us,” Archbishop Aquila said. “But in the midst of that is the light of Jesus Christ. And it is that light that we must focus on.”

He spoke about how Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household who led the bishops’ retreat, told the bishops that society has lost the “sense of eternity” and that “when we look at the darkness of the world, when we look at the darkness within the Church, we have lost the sense of eternity, that we really do not believe in Christ as the light, in Christ as the one who is come to give us eternal life.”

Turning to Christ and entering into a relationship with him, Archbishop Aquila said, can draw people out of this darkness.

“Jesus can heal any wound. He can restore any disorder. He can bring light into darkness.”

Archbishop Aquila praised those attending the conference, “I have never seen faith like this. … That is why when I come to SEEK—and this is my sixth one—I am always filled with hope. I am always filled with joy, because I see the depth of your faith. I see how Jesus and encountering him has transformed your life.”

He then implored his listeners to take the light of Christ they have received through FOCUS and share it with others.

“You are the light of the world today, in history,” Archbishop Aquila said. “You are the ones who reflect the light of Christ to others. You are sent on mission in whatever walk of life you are in, to bring Christ to others.”

Colleen Tragonski came to SEEK2019 from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., where she is a junior. A native of Charlotte, N.C., Tragonski said the effect of the conference is “so hard to put into words.”

“The Holy Spirit is so present here, everywhere in the atmosphere,” she said. “That’s the best way that I can put it.”

Attending the conference gave her “an incredible hope,” despite the challenges facing the Church at present.

“It’s amazing to see thousands and thousands of college students celebrating the Mass, all making this journey to Indianapolis, but also to heaven,” Tragonski said after the liturgy.

As she prepared to return to Auburn, Tragonski looked forward to embracing the mission that Archbishop Aquila presented to her and other conference attendees.

“I hope that I can take everything that I’ve learned and use it in every single moment of my life to be the light of Christ for other people,” she said. “It’s so easy to be on a high when you’re here. It’s the biggest challenge to … bring that to other people.” †

 

Related story: Young adults embrace opportunity to deepen faith at SEEK2019

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