By Kelly Medinger
Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) uses Catholic activities grant to help Towson University students find fulfillment through faith and friendship
Four out of five people who leave the Catholic Church do so between the ages of 18 and 23. Meanwhile, the American College Health Association routinely reports widespread unhappiness among college students in this age range. So how does the Church find those who are lost and ultimately show them a path to a more fulfilling life?
Connecting College to Christ
Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is the largest and fastest growing apostolate dedicated to the evangelization of college students. Its purpose is to engage a generation of young adults – those most at risk for disconnecting from their faith – as active participants in the Church through small group bible studies, large group leadership training, one-on-one discipleship, and social gatherings.
Founded in 1998, FOCUS missionaries now serve more than 100 college campuses across the United States, including four in Maryland: Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, the University of Maryland in College Park, the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, and most recently, Towson University.
In just two short years at Towson University (and a grant from the Knott Foundation), FOCUS has helped the Catholic community expand from a handful of students involved in planning their own activities, to a group of more than 70 students, missionaries, and student leaders engaged in community outreach, interfaith dialogue, religious practice, and social events. In the words of a vice president in administration at the college: “It’s great that Catholic campus ministry has awoken again.”
A Home Away from Home
“When you go to college, you want to belong somewhere,” says Nan Leahy, Philanthropy Officer. “FOCUS provides that environment for these students and becomes their support system outside of their family.”
Amber Cybulski graduated from college interested in the field of college ministry but unaware of FOCUS. She learned about the organization from a friend, applied to become a missionary, and then took part in an intensive 5-week training program for new staff. Today Amber meets with Towson students one-on-one and helps to lead the Newman Center’s campus ministry activities. Through this discipleship, she has witnessed positive developments in students’ friendships, compassion, willingness to lead, and ability to make good choices.
“So much comes down to good choices,” adds Father Matt Buening, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at Towson University. “Having the guidance of faith, a community to support them, and good friendships to help them make good choices is so important during college.”
A Time for Conversion
“In a way college is actually the easiest time for conversion,” shares Cybulski, “because you are not yet tied to a spouse, children, job, profession, or way of life, and perhaps for the first time you are charged with making decisions without the influence of your parents.”
Indeed, the culture of FOCUS has proven to be a powerful catalyst for conversion and discernment. Fr. Matt was recently contacted by an unbaptized student interested in exploring the Catholic faith. Simultaneously, FOCUS has inspired two recent Towson graduates to enter the seminary.
“When you fall in love with Christ, it just transforms everything,” says Fr. Matt. “This growth in the human person then translates into effective servant leadership, renewed dedication to the important things in life, a true commitment to helping the community, and a more fulfilling journey through life.”