Dear People of Jackson,

An epic conference is just around the corner: St. John’s is hosting the SEEK conference at the parish center from February 18-20. Amazing speakers including Fr. Mike Schmitz and Sr. Miriam James, small group discussion, snacks, dinner, adoration, confession—it doesn’t get much better.

I’d call it a life-changing conference, but on the one hand I’d rather under promise and over deliver, and on the other hand, it’ll only be life-changing if we think that we need a change. Which brings me to my two main points for this week’s article!

I’d like to address two things about retreats/conferences. One is that we chronically underinvest in ourselves and our growth. We want to love God and love our neighbors well, and yet we (myself included! My wife keeps reminding me of this!) often don’t work on our own growth so that we can do our primary duties better. We keep giving from a pool that’s been stagnant for too long. Eventually, we’ll run on empty. I wonder sometimes why I resist opportunities for my growth, and usually I’m shamefacedly admitting it’s because I think I can do it all on my own. Sometimes it’s because I’m comfortable where I am, and if I grow, I know I’ll have to change. Sometimes it’s because I don’t trust the retreat leaders or speakers or organizations that are offering opportunities for what they consider to be “growth”. Sometimes I worry that it would be selfish to take a weekend for myself and my own growth. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’ve heard it all before, and if it didn’t change me the first time around, why would this time be different? And sometimes, I resist because my life seems too full to fit something else in.

I’ve been here in Jackson for a little over four years, and I’ve met a fair number of people here. I don’t know how trustworthy you may find me, but I do vouch for the content of the SEEK Conference. I also vouch for the facts that we can’t do everything on our own, that we aren’t made for comfort, that self-investment is (among other things) about being better situated to serve others, that true things bear repeating, and that it’s ok to let some things go from time to time. With that in mind, I’m planning to go to the conference myself! I’m in need of a spiritual fill-up, or at least in need of a spiritual kick-in-the pants!

But the other thing that’s funny about retreats and conferences is that, even though we think we’re doing alright without one, we think that probably other people in our lives could use a retreat. It’s a weird sort of hypocrisy that I’ve felt myself fall into, where I think the people around me sure would benefit from some spiritual growth, while I am content with where I’m at. I have not found it to be a very healthy attitude for me…

That being said, I would love it very much if everyone reading this article would go on and invite people that they know to come to the SEEK conference, but only if you, the people reading this article, think that it would be worthwhile for you yourselves to come.

And so, people of St. John the Evangelist, would you be interested in spending a Friday night, a Saturday afternoon and evening, and a Sunday afternoon with me (and a few parish staff members)? We might find what we’ve been seeking, together!

Joseph Gruber

Parish FOCUS Missionary

Please register as soon as possible at: