Thursday, January 10, 2013

Orlando and back... on bus!

Sarah, Katie, me, Nikki, Mary, Lisa and Cari
That's right. We made it from Fargo to Orlando in one piece, both there and back! The 36 hour bus rides flew by and I'm still amazed at the good spirits the students had at the very tail end of the long trip home. The bus I was on had WiFi, outlets (helloooo fully charged phone!), two tables and fairly decent TV's to watch movies. Basically, we were living first world luxuries all the way there and back but I have a feeling that even if we weren't our students still would have enjoyed themselves.

We ended up arriving in Orlando eight hours earlier than we had originally planned, but huge shout-out to the events staff and the hotel workers who got up at the crack of dawn to make sure that our students' rooms were ready for them and to check us in. Cari, Bryan and I were completely amazed at how well-orchestrated our arrival was, and quite honestly, I'm still floored. Those people at the Swan and Dolphin certainly know how to accommodate large groups of people!

There's no better way to do this, so I'll just give you my own play-by-play of my own conference experience, and see if I can throw some others in along the way.

NDSU Students being super hospitable.
Cheering on the Bison from Orlando!
As mentioned, we arrived super early and because the FOCUS events staff worked so hard to get us checked in and to our rooms much earlier than expected, Mario Martinez, the missionary in charge of hospitality for the weekend, asked if we could get 20-30 students to help out with hospitality on one of the days. This mainly consisted of wearing their matching t-shirts and ushering people in and out of talks, to the lunch line, etc. To be quite honest, I think it'd be pretty difficult to mess it up, but apparently some students managed just that. Our day for hospitality wasn't until the second to last day, Saturday, but halfway through the day the events team and hospitality crew were singing NDSU's praises because our students were doing such an amazing job. Man, these North Dakotans know how to work hard! And with a smile; all the students I saw working flashed me a huge smile and I could tell they were genuinely happy to be helping out. Because of this Mario let us in early for the Matt Maher concert on Saturday night, which was pretty sweet. Not only did they go above and beyond in hospitality, the Bison football team also pulled out another National Championship that day! What a good day for NDSU all around!

Look at all them bisonCatholic students!
As you may remember, the day we actually left for FL I was pretty sick, and sadly, I wasn't the only one. Bryan and TJ were also coming down with colds, along with nearly 50 percent of our students. Man, the 2013 plague has struck! Everybody and their sister was sick on the bus down, and you can double that number for the way back. There was no way that you were getting on that bus completely healthy and leaving without some sort of illness. Having a cold did make sleeping on the way down pretty easy. I helped myself to a few servings of Equate's version of Nyquil and conked out for quite a while. Getting into Orlando and just being out in the sunshine the very first day we got there helped a lot, and Cari and I made a point to take one (or more..) naps on the beach throughout the conference. One of my absolute favorite summertime activities is napping in mom's lawn chair in the backyard, but even better to do that by the water and on a white sand beach! Bring it on! We were then fortunate enough to celebrate Mass the first day, and that was just a little foretaste of the Masses to come.

Without contest my favorite part of all conference was celebrating the Eucharist with 6200 college students, at least one or more bishops, 125 priests and 350 FOCUS missionaries. I mean, WHAT! Yesterday was the gospel where Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fishes for only 5,000 people, can you imagine adding another 1500 to that!? Conceptualizing that many people under one roof is difficult, but boy what a blessing it was to celebrate the pinnacle of our faith with so many other beautiful souls. Archbishop Aquila, who used to be in the Fargo diocese and is now in Denver, was there for a few days and merely seeing him was a huge grace in my life. He cares so deeply for young people and his passion for our deeper conversions shone through in his homily.
L'Angelus Band

The music was also rock solid the entire conference. L'Angelus, an awesome homegrown group that visits us annually at NST to entertain us missionaries for an evening, played before every session at Seek and I think every student fell in love with them while they were there. They totally spoiled us and I'm completely okay with it. Not only that, but the worship leaders were also super solid and had the voices of angels. AND on top of that, Matt Maher (pronounced MA-her) himself came and gave us a concert on Saturday night! It was a definite highlight of the conference for me because I was able to just be there with Jenne and really soak in the worship music, pray and not worry about the taking care of the students at that moment....not to sound selfish. But I guess we all are a little selfish sometimes, right?

Another aspect of the conference that was totally great was the technology. Because there were so many people it was too difficult to have the Keynote speakers each night all in one room, so they
Chris Stefanick in his tiger shirt, with NDSU students
had two huge ballrooms filled with people, and then the speaker him/herself would just come out in one of the rooms. There was a sweet technology that they used especially during the men's and women's sessions so that we could see the screens from the other room and they could see ours and the speakers in each of the rooms could communicate. It was totally awesome and there was no delay or technical glitches! I was so amazed. Speaking of speakers, the emcee for the weekend, Chris Stefanick was the perfect transition between speakers who added his own dynamic flare and what I thought was quite hilarious sense of humor. He randomly brought his six kids on stage one night, that was pretty cute and definitely won all the ladies in the room over. He was just really great.

I could give you all the highlights of each of the speakers' main talks, but I'll spare you that. I will say that this conference really lit a fire under me to strive for sainthood. The very last day Curtis Martin gave his sendoff pump-up speech, as he usually does, and he focused a lot on being a saint in the world today. "Becoming a saint isn't just a possibility," Martin stated, "it's likely. Because that is what we were made for. We were made for union with God." Boom. I sometimes get so caught up in the St. Therese of Lisieux's or Blessed JPII's that I forget that I, Kelsey Kaufman, am made to be a saint. It will just take work--making the joyful sacrifice to choose God in every moment, and not just sometimes. It takes more than going to church on Sunday to get into Heaven. It takes a conscious, daily decision to put God first always. So that's exactly what I want to do. Last semester I'll be honest, I went through the motions and did nothing to really reach in true and vivid spiritual growth. This semester I'm ready to start anew, and Jesus waits for me. He waits for me each day to give him my own "good morning" and offer my day to Him. This conference reminded me that that is what I desire, I've just let that get lost in the shuffle of my faith being my job.

(Almost) the entire group at conference! Sportin' those bisonCatholic tees. Nice.
Needless to say, it's great to be back on campus officially. Bryan gave us yesterday and Tuesday to rest and recoup but now we're back in action! BisonCatholic week is coming up right around the corner and it's really exciting to see how well things are coming together for it! Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare for such an impacting week for our students, especially the students that went to Seek and are now trying to figure out how to implement what they learned into their everyday lives.