By the fall semester of my junior year at Northwest Missouri State University, I was completely consumed with the typical college culture. I partied every chance I got and sought to make my mark on campus. But because of my conscience and the Lord’s grace, I was still attending Mass regularly, sometimes at the Newman Center.

During the first Mass of my junior year, I met the new FOCUS missionaries who quickly asked me to join a Bible study. I never went. I saw them everywhere, and they tried to hang out and invite me to fun events. They invited me time and again to SEEK2015, but I turned them down.

Eventually, my best friend decided to sign up, and because of the Lord’s grace again, I signed up at the extended deadline, right before it closed at midnight. At SEEK2015 I encountered Jesus in the Eucharist. For the first time, I wholeheartedly knew that He was there, loving me completely, as I was. Because of the invitations from the missionaries and my friends, I was given the opportunity to be away from all my distractions on campus and be with Jesus.

I also realized I was living a double life of Catholic Good-Girl vs. Party Girl. Coming back to campus, I wanted nothing more than to give my life to Jesus each day, but it was hard. The missionaries walked with me each step of the way, teaching me how to have the relationship with Jesus I longed for and the virtue within my friendships and organizations.

After graduating in 2016, I became a FOCUS missionary. I now serve as team director at the University of Memphis. At the previous university I served for my first two years as a missionary, I met a student whom I’ll call Ashley. At the time, Ashley was working on campus, finishing her degree and deciding whether she wanted to apply to medical school. I invited her to SEEK2017; by God’s grace, she signed up almost immediately — but I hardly ever saw her that first semester.

At SEEK2017, Ashley went to Fr. Philip Bochanski’s talk, “This is My Attraction. What is My Vocation?” Immediately afterward, she shared with me that she struggled with same-sex attraction. She had been running from the Church for so long because she didn’t feel like she was loved as she was. But Jesus transformed her heart through this talk, and later during Eucharistic adoration, she said she “felt peace for the first time in a long time.”

After SEEK, Ashely began to live a life pursuing the Lord. Today, she says He reminds her over and over that her attractions don’t define her. She knows she is a beloved daughter of Christ and actively shares her story and His truth with others.

SEEK changed my life, Ashely’s life, and so many others’ lives. People from around the country come together to ask those bigger questions and seek what they long for.

Since the first conference in 1999, FOCUS has welcomed more than 61,000 attendees. At SEEK2017, there were nearly 13,000 attendees from more than 500 campuses. At that event, nearly 300 priests celebrated daily Mass and heard more than 5,000 confessions.

This post was written by FOCUS Missionary Abby Haarmann.

“Join me in the search for souls for Jesus Christ.  My life was forever changed because of Jesus and His followers in FOCUS.  Your support and prayers will add to this mission greatly and make it possible to find these lost souls during their search for truth in this critical time of their lives.  I would be honored to share in this mission with you.  Thank you so much for all of your support, you are a pivotal piece in God’s kingdom!”