200 campus ‘missionaries’ trained at U. of I. Newman
CHAMPAIGN -- Curtis Martin likes everything about St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, from the hospitality of Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, chaplain, and his staff to the beauty of the chapel.
“The facilities are second to none,” said the founder and president of FOCUS -- the Fellowship of Catholic University Students -- who brought 200 full-time “missionaries” to St. John’s for a second summer of training in Scripture, evangelization and apologetics. The five-week session ended July 2 with a commissioning Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.
FOCUS is a Catholic college outreach with a presence on 50 campuses in 25 states, including two in the Diocese of Peoria. FOCUS missionaries can be found at Bradley University in Peoria as well as the University of Illinois.
Martin said 75 new missionaries were taking the profession of faith and oath of fidelity this summer, while another 125 staff members were renewing their promise to “preserve the deposit of faith in its entirety, hand it on faithfully and make it shine forth.”
Greeting them at Mass, Bishop Finn said he was grateful for the work of FOCUS and “for how much you’ve done in spreading the Gospel of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to our young people through your missionary work.”
In his homily, the bishop spoke of how Jesus called Matthew out of darkness into the light of new life. The former tax collector would go on to become one of the evangelists who told the Gospel story of salvation.
“Jesus seeks you out,” Bishop Finn said, explaining that despite our sin and weakness, the Lord still stands at the door and reaches out to us.
“We need our Savior. We want him to be known. For this goal you have gathered -- to know him, to love him more faithfully than we have, to resolve to proclaim him to every heart, because every heart is longing for him,” he said.
“What good companions God has provided for you here at FOCUS. What good preparation he is giving you in your formation in the resources you bring into your work,” the bishop said.
He gave them one more companion, encouraging them to place themselves and everyone they encounter under the mantle of Mary’s protection.