More than 3,500 students attended the Fellowship of Catholic University Student's (FOCUS) biannual conference last week in Orlando, Florida. The success of the event caused the group's president, Curtis Martin, to describe it as “packed with memorable moments.”
The five day 'Made for More' conference took place Dec 30 through Jan 3 and included a wide range of speakers such as Fr. Benedict Groschel, Matthew Kelly and Dr. Ted Sri, as well as performers Matt Maher, Matthew West and Tim Hawkins. Students also had the opportunity to celebrate the New Year together and participate in Mass and Confession.
“Each year one of the most dramatic events is our time of Eucharistic Adoration and Confession,” Martin told CNA. “If you have never seen thousands of young people fall to their knees (and some completely prostrate themselves) before Jesus Christ veiled under the appearance of mere bread, it is an amazing experience.”
“For several hours the students sat in silent prayer,” Martin recounted. “During the event, lines began to form so that these young leaders could make a Sacramental Confession, some for the first time since their First Confession.”
Recalling past FOCUS conferences, Martin said, “Two years ago after a similar experience in Grapevine, Texas, a priest that I had never met asked me how things were going and I responded, 'They seem to be going really well.' To which he replied, 'You will never know how well things are going, because you can not hear Confessions, this is the single most impressive experience of my priesthood!'”
The impact of the Orlando conference was also pointed out by FOCUS Team Director Patrick Rivera of Montclair University, who said, “I can't remember coming across a single student that did not feel as though they were having a life changing experience.” “The energy was one that was very, I would say … was very encouraging.”
FOCUS Communications Director Jeremy Rivera echoed the same sentiment, saying, “I kept hearing stories of transformative moments.”
“People had decided to become Catholic, I heard a lot of people being moved to a vocation to religious life,” Rivera said.
When asked how this event compared to ones in the past, Rivera told CNA that “we saw over a thousand more students at this conference.”
The organization, founded in 1998, has been lauded by Church leaders such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who has stated that “no one does a more dynamic job of reaching college students for Christ than FOCUS.”
Speaking on the successes of the organization, Martin told CNA that “this conference marks the conclusion of our 11th year” and that “we began with 22 students and no full-time staff and now have 250 full-time staff and thousands of students involved.”
In describing the work of FOCUS, Martin explained that “The basic message is this: The Catholic faith works. We are not doing anything special, we are simply inviting young people to know Christ personally and to follow Him in the Church He founded, where they find the fullness of truth and grace.”
More information about FOCUS can be found at its website: www.focusonline.org