In an age where nearly 80% of Catholics who lose the faith do so by the age of 23, one of the most significant and influential places for young people is the college campus, where they learn values and habits that will shape their entire lives. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) sends missionaries, many who are recent college graduates themselves, to reach out to students on campus, share life with them and invite them into a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, in which they teach others to do the same.
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus Christ tells His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” We believe the most effective method of sharing the gospel is to follow the model which Christ Himself taught His Apostles: FOCUS missionaries invest deeply in the lives of students, discipling them and teaching them how to invite others to know Christ as well. In this way, students are sent to their peers on campus to continue sharing the good news with others.
FOCUS’ Main Thing is a statement of our vision and approach in campus evangelization: Inviting college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendship in which they lead others to do the same.
In response to Pope Saint John Paul II’s call to a “new evangelization,” FOCUS was founded in 1998 by Curtis Martin at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Since then, FOCUS has grown from two missionaries on one campus to nearly 500 missionaries serving on more than 100 campuses across the country.
FOCUS stresses incarnational evangelization among its staff, which expresses God’s love by meeting students where they are and making a personal, sacrificial investment in their lives. We do not seek to do the work of the Newman Center or duplicate efforts; instead, FOCUS missionaries often serve as the hands and feet of the Newman Center, meeting college students where they study, hang out and live on campus (i.e., dorms, intramural sports, student unions, Greek life, etc.).
For FOCUS to expand to new college and university campuses, it is necessary for the following three criteria to be met:
- The blessing and approval of the local bishop
- Provision of the campus investment
- Qualified missionaries for expansion
o Pray for us. Please pray for FOCUS leadership, our missionaries and staff, all bishops and all college parish priests, that we may faithfully share the love of Christ and the Catholic faith. We would like to pray with you for your prayer intentions, too!
o Participate. If you are a young adult seeking to make a powerful impact in the world after graduation, consider applying for FOCUS staff. If you are looking to make a positive change in your career, check out our other job opportunities.
o Give. The support of generous people like you is what makes evangelization on campuses possible. Thank you for being a part of the mission!
For gifts set up through the FOCUS website or on a missionary fund page, you may log in to your profile to make changes to your donations at www.focus.org/myfocus. If you have never logged in, use the email associated with your gift to reset your password. For questions, please contact us.
Please do not send credit card numbers or bank information through email.
You can also email us to cancel your current donation so that you may renew your donation through the website instead.
FOCUS sends mailings both from our national work and also from our individual missionaries. If you would prefer that we not contact you through mail, phone or email, please click here and fill out the form. If you do not want to receive mailings from a missionary either, please include this information.
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FOCUS missionaries are inspired to share with others the joy they have received through their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. They go out onto campuses — on the field, in the cafeteria, at the student union, etc. — to meet students in their own environment, to share time with them and to invite them into a relationship with Christ and the Catholic campus community. Missionaries always seek to grow their relationship with Christ through prayer and the sacraments.
Missionaries follow the chaplain’s pastoral leadership in partnership with the campus ministry staff. You should expect the missionaries to strive for excellence in their work with students on campus.
Missionaries are trained each summer at New Staff Training (NST), a five-week intensive preparation for all new and veteran missionaries. They are trained in all of the elements which help them be successful missionaries on campus: Scripture, prayer, leadership, discipleship, evangelization, small-group facilitation, outreach and strategy, character, vision and various other skills.
When they join FOCUS, missionaries make an initial two-year commitment to the apostolate. Our on-campus staff are open to serving anywhere in the U.S.; some missionaries are reassigned to a new campus after one year. There are various factors that go into placements and moving missionaries.
o Offer Mass at convenient times. Popular Mass times are noon, 5 p.m., and 9 or 10 p.m. Keep in mind that if your staff/students are trying to pray at 8 a.m. every day, a 10 p.m. Mass may not be practical.
o Offer the sacrament of reconciliation daily. Many times missionaries encounter fallen-away Catholics who then desire to come back to the Church. When confession is regularly available, it helps the missionaries in the process of restoring Catholics back to full communion with the Church.
o Pray with the missionaries and all the campus ministry staff. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all of the staff and missionaries pray a holy hour at 8 a.m. In the first year, they had five students attending holy hour; by year three, between 40 – 60 were showing up every morning.
o Offer spiritual direction to your students. Missionaries are not spiritual directors, even though in discipleship spiritual things do come up. Our missionaries are directed to encourage students to find spiritual directors. Over time, you might not be able to spiritually direct all the students coming through the doors, so providing a list of good spiritual directors in the area would help tremendously.
o Emphasize unity. It can be easy for there to be Newman Center students and FOCUS students. If the FOCUS missionaries are just a branch of the entire Newman Center Campus Ministry, this division can be avoided. Talk to the missionaries about adopting an overarching vision for the entire campus ministry on your campus.