Here at the University of Maine, we are truly blessed by the presence of four phenomenal FOCUS Missionaries on our campus. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (commonly referred to as FOCUS) is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same.
Staffed by young adults who can relate to the daily life and challenges of college students, FOCUS Missionaries actively work to invite students into a deeper relationship with Christ through prayer, good works, friendship, and modeling what walking through life with Christ looks like.
“We find students wherever they are,” explains FOCUS Missionary Matt Leffel, “invite them to The Newman Center, invite them to a relationship with Jesus, and we teach them to pray. We lead Bible studies with them. Those who are really excited and have a desire to share their faith, we’ll teach them and give them the tools to be able to go out and also invite others to come to know Jesus as well.”
As UMaine student Joseph Beale explains, “People are looking for role models of what men should be like. Of course, the ultimate role model is Jesus, but these guys are as close to the role model as you can get. And they’re there to push you. They’re there to say ‘How is your prayer life? You should do this. You should push yourself to be better.’ I think my relationship with them has forced me to take a look at what my faith was like.”
Why is this work so essential? Nationally, only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing their faith, Sherry Weddell notes in “Forming Intentional Disciples.” Many of them begin to drift away from practicing their faith during their college years. FOCUS Missionaries step into this gap and meet students where they are at in this critical formative time when they are making adult decisions about their faith and how to live it.
Are they having an impact here at UMaine? Judging from the fact that The Newman Center is quite literally bursting at the seams some nights from Bible Studies, liturgies, Wednesday night suppers, casual get-togethers, and more, it’s safe to say that their impact is tremendous.
“It’s incredible that we have so many people here,” notes FOCUS Missionary Nina Cardillo, “but we’re just pushing out the doors, and we can’t fit everyone here to do all the things that we want to be doing on a regular basis. So space is another thing that we really need with a new Newman Center.”
As we embark on the campaign to Rebuild His Church, we are blessed to be in the unique position of needing more space to nurture and accommodate students today who are developing into the Catholic leaders of tomorrow.