FOCUS Missionaries: ‘true disciple makers’
In the first part of June, I was blessed to be one of the FOCUS chaplains at their New Staff Training (NST) at the University of Mary in Bismarck. The reason I said ‘yes’ to this invitation from FOCUS is because of my ministry as the chaplain at the Rapid City Catholic Newman Center, where we serve students from South Dakota School of Mines Technology, the satellite campus of Nursing for South Dakota State University, and Western South Dakota Technical College
My main responsibility was simply to be present to the FOCUS Missionaries as a spiritual father. I was able to be present for Masses, Adoration, Confessions, and meals. Occasionally, I would go over in the evenings to Chesterton’s Pub on campus, which was also enjoyable.
FOCUS has more than 860 missionaries serving in 216 locations this fall. They hosted two large NST events, and there were probably 450 + FOCUS missionaries at the UMary training, including Molly Schmidt, serving at SD Mines, and Sami Galuppo and Kailey Garret Siehers serving at BHSU this year.
The new FOCUS missionaries are evangelized and catechized in four areas of formation: human, intellectual, spiritual, and apostolic through incarnational evangelization, which is based on the way St. John Paul II evangelized, and lived out his life. St. John Paul II was constantly going out, traveling the world, getting involved in people’s lives, and sharing his own life with them. St. John Paul II, in his 26 years as the Holy Father, led 104 pastoral trips outside of Italy, visited 129 countries, and was part of nine World Youth Day gatherings.
Incarnational evangelization is rooted in the scripture passage from 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves because you have become very dear to us.” In the writings of St. Paul, we learned how he evangelized in an incarnational way by simply investing himself in the lives of others. St. Paul not only invited others to listen to his message but also to imitate his way of living, just as St. Paul imitated the ways of Jesus. We hear in John 13, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
In an article put out by FOCUS on Incarnational Evangelization: “The Art of Accompaniment,” they give three key concepts.
Incarnational evangelization is the model of how God evangelized. Just as God entered our world, we too must enter other people’s lives and meet them where they are to bring them the Gospel.
“Go” Gospel vs. “Come to Me” Gospel: We must go out to share the Gospel. We cannot wait for others to come to us. The Gospel is not a “come to me” Gospel. It is a “go” Gospel.
Avoid Jacuzzi Christianity: We must get out of our comfortable Christian community and share God’s love with the cold, hurting, and broken world.
From my experience of FOCUS Missionaries, the last four years at SD Mines, they truly live out this incarnational evangelization in their lives. They are true disciple makers. It was exciting for me this summer to see these 450 + new FOCUS missionaries learn how to live out this incarnational evangelization in their lives. They are actually seeking to live out holiness in their lives. They learned how to lead Bible studies, they learned how to pray a holy hour — every day, and they learned the art of conversation that can lead to deeper conversations of purpose and meaning in Christ.
Last year at the Rapid City Catholic Newman Center, we had 16 Bible studies taking place. Over 80 + students came to a Bible study at least four or more times. We had 13 students who are truly living the higher calling of Christ in their lives as missionary disciples by leading their own Bible studies and sharing their faith with others. They were faithful not only to Sunday Mass but often were at daily Mass too. It was amazing to watch the gospel of Christ come alive in our hearts.
As you can see, FOCUS has had a tremendous impact in the lives of our students not only at SD Mines but at BHSU too. I am always amazed that the FOCUS missionaries raise their own salaries by sharing their call to be missionaries on college campuses. They do this by inviting their family members, relatives, friends, coworkers, and others to join them in this mission.
I know this past August that the different parishes of the diocese of Rapid City took up a collection for the Newman ministry on both campuses at S.D. Mines and BHSU. If you would like to support the work of FOCUS on these two campuses, pray about supporting FOCUS at S.D. Mines and BHSU. In the same way these FOCUS missionaries seek funds to be missionaries on our campus, we are raising funds to keep FOCUS on our campuses in our diocese.
If you would like to visit further about this, please give me a call, 605-484-2161.
God bless – Fr. Mark