FOCUS Announces Changes in National Chaplain Corps
Fr. John Lager, O.F.M. Cap., will take a sabbatical during the 2022 – 2023 academic year. Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J., will serve as FOCUS Senior National Chaplain. Fr. John Ezratty, M.C., and Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P., are transitioning from part-time to full-time National Chaplains.
DENVER, July 7, 2022 — After nearly 14 years of ministry with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), Fr. John Lager, O.F.M. Cap., will be taking a sabbatical during the 2022 – 2023 academic year. Fr. Lager first served part-time and has served as the apostolate’s Senior National Chaplain since 2013. When he returns, Fr. Lager will be a full-time National Chaplain working closely with the new Senior National Chaplain, Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.
“I have considered my ministry with the apostolate of FOCUS to be one of the best assignments I have had in my 43 years of priesthood and 50 years of religious life,” said Fr. Lager. “Accompanying young men and women in proclaiming Jesus Christ to our world today has brought me great joy and excitement. The Holy Spirit is working in powerful ways among our young adults in the Church today. The gift of Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J., as the Senior National Chaplain will be a gift in furthering the mission of FOCUS. He brings enthusiasm, a joyful spirit and a love for the Ignatian Tradition. FOCUS’ leadership will be enhanced by his gift of teaching, preaching and witnessing to the truth of the Gospel.”
“It is with double gratitude to God that FOCUS is announcing a change of leadership for our national chaplains,” said Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS. “Fr. John Lager, O.F.M. Cap., has been a dear friend since 1998 when he was one of the first people we met as we launched FOCUS, and he has also been a spiritual father for me personally. Fr. John, who has served as the Senior National Chaplain since 2013, will be taking a sabbatical this next year. We are grateful that he will return to FOCUS after his sabbatical, but he will not resume the demanding role of Senior National Chaplain. Everyone associated with FOCUS loves and appreciates Fr. John. We are also grateful to announce the new Senior National Chaplain: Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J. Fr. Dyer has been associated with FOCUS for many years and has cultivated the love and respect of all our staff members. We are thrilled for him to assume his new leadership role.”
Fr. Dyer commented, “There’s a certain congruence between what we do in the Society of Jesus and what FOCUS does: We emphasize preparing young people for the rest of their lives. At our heart, the Jesuits are about evangelization — and our Constitutions are all about evangelization. Ignatian spirituality, contained within the Spiritual Exercises, is one which helps FOCUS missionaries understand how God is working in their lives and turning that understanding into a zeal for souls. I look forward to taking what I’ve learned in my Jesuit life to help the missionaries who serve FOCUS and students involved on campus.”
Additional FOCUS Chaplain Corp Changes
Fr. John Ezratty, M.C., who has served with FOCUS since 2017 as a part-time National Chaplain working remotely, will be transitioning to a full-time National Chaplain working out of the DSC (Denver Support Center). His community, the Miles Christi Religious Order, is establishing a new fraternity in the Archdiocese of Denver.
Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P., will also transition from a part-time to a full-time National Chaplain with FOCUS, but he will continue working remotely from New York City. Fr. Gillen will divide his time equally between the provision of ongoing spiritual and human formation of FOCUS employees and the provision of support of certain operations (e.g., development and marketing).
FOCUS National Chaplains offer pastoral care and support both on campuses and from the national office. Each priest has specific duties in the organization while offering pastoral care to staff, missionaries, campus chaplains, students on campus and benefactors. They also participate in Spiritual Boot Camps, Team Director Summits, retreats, days of recollection, Interview Weekends, Masses and Adoration at national events such as SEEK, daily Mass, Adoration and other sacraments. More information is at focus.org/chaplains.
FOCUS National Chaplain Bios
Fr. John Lager, O.F.M. Cap.
· Ordained in 1979, Fr. John Lager, O.F.M. Cap., has served the Capuchins as an associate pastor, a high school campus minister and as the Order’s director of development and missionary activity. He has also served as the executive director of the Samaritan House of Denver, vocation director for the Capuchin Province of Mid-America and cofounder of Marked Men for Christ ministry.
Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.
· Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J., grew up near St. Louis and entered the Society of Jesus in 1999. After completing studies at Saint Louis University and Boston College, he served at Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado and Jesuit High School of New Orleans. After his ordination in 2010, Fr. Dyer started serving as a Summer Chaplain during the annual FOCUS New Staff Training. In 2019, he transitioned to a FOCUS National Chaplain. Fr. Dyer professed his final vows on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2021. For a Jesuit priest, these perpetual solemn vows of poverty, chastity, obedience to the order and obedience to the pope mark the end of his formation that began in the novitiate. Fr. Dyer will be moving to Denver in July and working out of the DSC.
Fr. John Ezratty, M.C.
· Fr. John Ezratty, M.C., was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He joined the religious order of Miles Christi at the time of its foundation in 1994 and was ordained in 2002. He studied philosophy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He served as the executive secretary of the Order and as a pastor of St. Helena Parish in Luján, Argentina. After many years as dean of studies, professor of philosophy and spiritual director at the Miles Christi Seminary in Argentina, he came to the U.S. in 2010.
Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P.
· Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P., was born and raised in Rockaway Beach, New York. He attended the State University of New York in Stony Brook, graduating with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and a Business Management Bachelor of Science. He worked for several years in finance on Wall Street. After studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville and earning degrees from the Angelicum in Rome, he was ordained in Italy to the priesthood in 2000. He served as a hospital chaplain at Sloan Kettering and later as a college chaplain with the first FOCUS team at New York University in 2009. Fr. Gillen is the Executive Director, Dominican Foundation and Director, Rosary Shrine of St. Jude, and the Executive Director of the Dominican Friars Foundation, which provides support for the record number of friars with the Province of Saint Joseph.
Fr. Doug Grandon
· Fr. Doug Grandon, who has served with FOCUS since 2015, will continue to be a full-time National Chaplain working out of the DSC. Fr. Grandon became an evangelical Christian at age 14. In his early 20s, Fr. Grandon served as a missionary translator in Communist Yugoslavia. After returning home, he got married, attended seminary and started a new church for the Evangelical Free Church. He later served five years as an Episcopal priest. In 2003, he and his wife, Lynn, became Catholic, along with their four youngest children. In 2008, Pope Benedict granted Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria, permission to ordain Fr. Grandon a married Catholic priest, under the Pastoral Provision created by Pope St. John Paul II. Since his ordination, he has served four parishes and taught at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.
Fr. Michael Drea
· Fr. Michael Drea will continue to serve remotely as the full-time National Chaplain with the FOCUS Mission Development team, which he has done since 2018. Fr. Drea earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Boston College and, after an early career in development, he entered St. John’s Seminary in Boston for priestly formation. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston in 2004 and has served as parochial vicar, pastor and as Catholic chaplain at Harvard University. While at Harvard, Fr. Drea invited FOCUS to work with him and the community in evangelization and outreach.
Fr. Gabriel Bakkar, C.F.R., Fr. Martin Latiff, M.C., and Fr. Martin Mayerhofer, F.S.O. (Europe), will continue to serve part-time and remotely.
- Fr. Gabriel Bakkar, C.F.R., grew up in Florida. He is a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas for studies in spirituality and the Cenacle School of Spiritual Direction in Florida. Ordained in 2007, Fr. Gabriel has served his community as director of vocations and postulancy. Over the past ten years, he has preached numerous retreats and offers spiritual direction for missionaries. He currently resides at St. Michael Friary in Paterson, New Jersey.
- Fr. Martin Latiff, M.C., is a priest of the Miles Christi religious order. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied philosophy at the Miles Christi School of Philosophy in Argentina and theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. Since his ordination to the priesthood in 2005, he has preached numerous retreats and days of recollection across the U.S. and has served many high school and college students through spiritual direction and faith formation. In January 2017, he joined the team of FOCUS National Chaplains. He currently lives with his Miles Christi religious community in San Diego. He is also one of the spiritual directors at Cathedral Catholic High School in Carmel Valley, California, and one of the chaplains at the University of San Diego.
- Fr. Martin Mayerhofer, F.S.O., was born in Bavaria, Germany. He joined his community The Spiritual Family “The Work” in 1993. Following studies in Rome at the Pontifical Universities Angelicum and Gregoriana, he was ordained a priest in 2002. He served as an assistant priest in the Diocese of Feldkirch and within his community in Bregenz, both in Austria. Upon completing his doctoral studies in Church history, Fr. Martin worked as a university chaplain in Vienna, Austria. During this period, he continued his research in the field of Church history and taught at Vienna University and other ecclesiastical institutions. He spent the 2018 – 2019 academic year as a visiting professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Since the fall of 2019, he has taught at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria, and works for FOCUS as a chaplain for its European missions.
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them into a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are.
For the 2021 – 2022 academic year, nearly 800 FOCUS missionaries served at 205 locations, which included 22 parish venues across the U.S. and seven international campuses. FOCUS alumni, now nearly 40,000 strong, are living and serving in parishes and communities across the country. By 2026, FOCUS expects to have more than 70,000 alumni. An important blessing of a fruitful partnership between the local campus ministry and FOCUS has been the pursuit of religious vocations. Since 1998, more than 1,000 people have entered the seminary or a religious house of formation after involvement with FOCUS on college campuses. Based on past experience, FOCUS expects that number to nearly double in the next five years. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. focus.org