Denver, Colo., Sep 11, 2014 / 03:41 am
With missionary teams on 100 college campuses across the continental U.S., the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has reached an impressive number of students in its 16-year history.
But with thousands more institutes of higher learning lacking a missionary presence, many students have yet to be reached.
In response to the growing demand, while also faced with limited resources, FOCUS has launched a Digital Campus where students can engage with missionaries remotely via Skype.
Now in its third year of operations, the FOCUS Digital Campus has seen a massive response from students who desire to have more – or any – Catholic ministry on their campus.
"The students who are willing to do this, the students who are willing to Skype with a missionary they've never met for at least an hour a week, are just phenomenal," Melissa Keating, a missionary team member of the Digital Campus, told CNA.
The staff at headquarters in Genesee, Colo., came up with the idea for a digital campus after they received requests from students through the "Bring FOCUS to your campus" link on the organization's website. Although the link is intended to capture information from campus chaplains and ministers, many students were using it to request more information about how to bring Catholic missionaries to their campuses.
Rather than waste the contact information of hundreds of college students searching for help in evangelizing their campuses, FOCUS chose to put together a team of missionaries who would reach out to a small number of students each semester through Skype.
While FOCUS missionaries follow a model of "win, build, send" – winning students over through friendship, building up their faith with Bible studies and catechesis, and sending out the students who wish to evangelize – the Digital Campus takes out the first step of winning the student over.
"I don't have to convince them that evangelization is a good thing. Honestly, my job is mostly to convince them to pray and not just go outside to do everything," Keating said.
She explained that she is constantly impressed with the caliber of students who seek out FOCUS for their campuses, since they are willing to do the work to become a missionary at their college even without a ministry program in place.
"You have to have faith in the future of the Church when you're seeing what I'm seeing," Keating said. "I am so excited for these kids to graduate just to see what they're going to do in the world."
While the Digital Campus team is able to reach out to dozens of students all over the country each semester, there are still students on their waiting list.
However, Keating remains hopeful in the students who her team has yet to reach.
"There are just so many students on campuses with nothing to offer them and they aren't falling away from their faith."
FOCUS currently has 400 missionaries serving on 99 college campuses around the continental United States, including University of California-Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Texas, New York University and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Update: After time of publication, FOCUS announced that its missionaries now serve on 100 campuses rather than the previously stated 99 campuses.