Varsity Catholic and FOCUS Greek Encourage Students to Seek Identity in Christ
Missionaries serve students who face rigorous schedules and high pressure to perform on the field and in the classroom
DENVER, Sept. 23, 2021 — As outreach divisions of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), Varsity Catholic and FOCUS Greek have inspired thousands of students to grow deeper in faith through discipleship, Bible studies, FOCUS mission trips, local service work, national events and many other opportunities. By 2026, FOCUS expects around 40,000 students will have been involved with Varsity Catholic and FOCUS Greek.
As the Olympics reminded people this year, athletes endure many stressful years of rigorous training schedules. Since 2007, Varsity Catholic has addressed the unique needs and challenges student-athletes face, helping them develop spiritually with mentorship while also offering Christian fellowship through Bible studies and discipleship. Varsity Catholic hosts mission camps in locations such as St. Lucia, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize and Pittsburgh. These experiences provide a unique opportunity for student-athletes to facilitate a sports camp while sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For the 2021 – 2022 academic year, FOCUS has 170 trained Varsity Catholic missionaries on 100 campuses, inspiring student-athletes to grow their faith and integrate it with sport to become both better athletes and individuals.
Most Varsity Catholic missionaries are former student-athletes. Pat Towles is a former University of Kentucky and Boston College quarterback. He joined FOCUS in 2018 and is now serving at The Ohio State University. “I work with student-athletes because I know the struggles with identity firsthand. My identity doesn’t come from the number of likes I get on Instagram or the number of endorsement deals that I sign, but from the love of the Father and being His son. As a Varsity Catholic missionary in FOCUS, that is what I do: help student-athletes know whose they are, and who they are.”
Annika Albrecht, a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln Husker and professional volleyball player, now serves as a Varsity Catholic missionary at Carroll College. She said, “I enjoy working with student-athletes pursuing excellence in their sport who are focused on improving themselves daily. One of my favorite parts is seeing the discipline, sacrifice and excellence shift from just sport into school, nutrition, weights and their faith life. I’m thankful to get to walk alongside student-athletes, assisting in their spiritual journey as they pursue a life to the fullest for Christ.”
FOCUS Greek missionaries first served on campus in 2009, addressing the needs of students involved with the Greek system, which is rooted in the values of community, academics, philanthropy, integrity and friendship. Many of today’s business leaders were involved with the Greek culture on campus. Fraternity and sorority members on campus take on leadership roles within their chapter, in student government and other campus organizations. More than 180 FOCUS Greek missionaries are serving on 115 campuses for the 2021 – 2022 academic year, including the University of Alabama, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin.
Most FOCUS Greek missionaries were involved in the Greek system themselves while in college. Many Greek students host Bible studies within their sororities and fraternities. Several FOCUS Greek mission trips are planned for students to serve and share their faith with others.
Zach Fiedler was involved with the Sigma Chi fraternity in college and now serves as a FOCUS Greek missionary at the University of Southern California. One student, Charlie, accepted the invitation to go surfing with others in Fiedler’s Greek Bible study. Afterward, Charlie started coming to the study, invited his Zeta Beta Tau brothers and started a group chat for the men to share Bible verses and find out when people were going to Mass.
“Charlie went on a FOCUS mission trip to Peru and told me afterward how he reflected on how fleeting pleasures like TV, ice cream and cars bring temporary, but surface-level happiness. He said the joy he found in this community ran much deeper than material goods or even basic needs but was present without any sort of transaction. Getting to walk with fraternity men like Charlie is a great joy that comes with learning to trust our Lord in patience, docility and constant prayer and fasting. All I can do is stay faithful and docile to the Holy Spirit when I meet guys like Charlie, bringing them to the foot of the Cross, and help them joyfully witness their faith in their chapter houses.”
Mary Sarife is a student involved in Kappa Kappa Gamma at the University of Texas at Austin. After encouragement from a FOCUS missionary, she started a Bible study, noting, “Sorority girls are tough shells to crack. Jesus did not necessarily show Himself in the numbers but in the curiosity and commitment of the girls who did come. Before starting the Bible study, I didn’t have a close friend in my sorority, and suddenly, I had some amazing girls to walk with in life and faith.”
She added, “I really bonded with one girl who started serving the homeless through FOCUS Backyard Missions alongside the missionaries at Camp Esperanza. Participating in Backyard Missions allowed us to encounter the Lord face to face in His hunger, thirst and longing for us to serve Him. Friendships reach a deeper level when you serve the poor, who are Christ, together. Not only have I been deeply transformed by our friendship, but I have also had the wonderful privilege of walking with her through big and little conversions of heart and life. In less than a year, she has turned her life around and become a great witness of God’s love to everyone around her.”
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) was founded in 1998 and invites 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 friendships in which they lead others to do the same. For the 2021 – 2022 academic year, nearly 800 FOCUS missionaries are serving at 205 locations, which includes 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. FOCUS expects to nearly double that number 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