From January 2nd – January 6th, around 8,000 young adults gathered in the McCormick Place Convention Center in downtown Chicago to attend the Student Leadership Summit (SLS) hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). College-aged students all from different schools throughout the country took time away from their Christmas break to have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ and to learn how to bring their confreres at their perspective colleges and universities to that same type of encounter. The week is filled with beautiful liturgies, a powerful extended time of Eucharistic Adoration, inspiriting talks, and specified workshops related to growing deeper in prayer and techniques in evangelization.
Conference keynote speakers included Bishop Robert Barron, Sr. Bethany Madonna, SV, Jim Caviezel (the actor who played Jesus in Passion of the Christ), Dr. Ted Sri, Sarah Swafford, Fr. Mike Schmitz (a former volunteer at our SOLT mission in Belize), and Curtis Martin (the founder of FOCUS). It was so encouraging to see a thousand young adults during their free time spend an hour in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. To see so many college students who were evangelized and who desired to be more effective evangelizers themselves was extremely edifying. SLS is a microcosm of the growing and alive Church in the United States. It is the New Evangelization at work, and it is working! The “who’s who” in evangelization and religious orders were there to recruit young men and women enthusiastic for their faith to join in their mission in the Church.
SOLT sponsored a booth in order to promote volunteer opportunities at our missions in Belize, Mexico, and North Dakota as well as our two-week mission trip to Belize in May. Throughout the week, our SOLT team of Sr. Mary Elizabeth, Sr. Laudem Gloriae, Fr. Mark Wendling, Brenton and Lucía Seymour, and I talked to hundreds of young adults who expressed varying degrees of interest at the prospect of volunteering after graduation at one of our missions or joining our mission trip this summer. Some of our past volunteers in Belize and some of our current volunteers, SOLT Missionary Teachers, in Belize joined us at our booth not only to catch up and hang out with SOLT, but out of their own enthusiasm they also joined us in encouraging others to volunteer at our missions. For me, it was a beautiful time of reconnecting with old friends who are now at work in leadership in various ways in the Church. Some are now priests and sisters and deacons and seminarians, some are in charge of youth groups and campus ministry, some are in different niches and organizations of evangelization.
SLS was an important time of promoting SOLT, so that our name and our faces are recognizable as forces in the New Evangelization and as a viable option for advancing the mission of the Church. More information about our mission trip to Belize in May can be found at MeetSOLT.com.