FOCUS campus ministry is considering taking their successful brand of youth apostolate to Europe in order to meet the challenge of evangelizing formerly Christian societies.
Founder and president Curtis Martin called the potential task “unique” in that “you are proclaiming the Gospel to people who already know parts of the Gospel.”
“I think there is tremendous opportunity, especially in the Americas, but also in Western Europe because we have such a deep, Catholic Christian culture, but people are drifting away,” he told CNA in Rome May 9.
Launched only 14 years ago, FOCUS – the Fellowship of Catholic University Students – has grown from four missionaries serving one campus in Kansas to over 260 missionaries serving nearly 60 campuses in 28 states across the U.S.
Martin identifies the “FOCUS effect” as the infectious enthusiasm of young people after they have their “lives changed by Jesus Christ” and recognize that “the Catholic Church is the home that all Christians are called to.”
“When they go on to college campuses and they’re living a life of joy and friendship, it radiates,” he said.
“Everybody desires to have joy and friendship but our world offers very little of that, so when they go on campus they stand out like a star in the middle of a dark night.”
Speaking beneath the shadow of the dome of St. Peter’s basilica, Martin said he recognizes that most young people in Europe “typically know that Jesus Christ is a historical figure” and are even aware that “he died on a cross and even that he rose from the dead.”
“But they don't know how to make those realities, the reality of what Christ did, have any impact on their lives.”
Because of this, he believes that the young people of the old world are now ripe for “a bold, energetic, zealous and joyful proclamation of the Gospel that invites them to think again what their life is all about.”
The organization is no stranger to the European continent. Last year Martin and his team hosted an evangelization summit in the Spain prior to World Youth Day in Madrid. Next month they will be present at the 50th Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland. They’ve also had missionaries serve temporarily at the European campuses of American universities.
“We’re just begging God that when the time is right, if it’s something that the Church calls for, that we'll be ready to respond. We’re eager to go wherever the Holy Spirit leads us,” said Martin.
The FOCUS team will be back in Rome this October for the Synod of Bishops when up to 100 campus leaders will pray and fast “begging God to send grace upon the Church.” In the evenings they also hope to meet with many of the participating bishops to discuss Blessed John Paul II's vision of the New Evangelization and, perhaps, the expansion of FOCUS into Europe.
“Right now, there's plenty of work to do in the United States but if the Holy Spirit calls us to go elsewhere, we'll do everything we can to meet that call.”