Reclaiming College Students for Christ
Curtis Martin's FOCUS Targets Young Adults in "Critical Decade"
GREELEY, Colorado, NOV. 5, 2003 (Zenit) - Curtis Martin was raised in a Catholic home, but by the time he went away to college, he was struggling with his faith. Strong Christian friends brought him back to Christ, and eventually he re-embraced the Catholic Church.
His faith experience in college inspired him to establish a safety net and evangelization resource for Catholic students during their "critical decade" when they make major decisions and often lose their faith.
Martin started the first FOCUS, or Fellowship of Catholic University Students, at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, in 1998. Now the program has been established at 18 schools nationwide. It boasts close to 2,000 members and is strongly endorsed by prelates such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Archbishop John Myers of Newark.
Martin shared why it's so important to invite young adults to know Christ and his Church during their college years.
Q: What is the purpose of FOCUS, and what compelled you to start it?
Martin: The purpose of FOCUS is to present the fullness of Christ's teachings to the young leaders of today so that they, in turn, will train, equip and mobilize others to extend the Lordship of Jesus Christ to every aspect of life. FOCUS exists to reclaim the hearts and minds of college students for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
Even though I was raised in a Catholic home, I drifted from an active faith in Jesus Christ. It was through the invitation of some men I met in college that I recommitted myself to Jesus as Lord of my life. These men were wonderful committed evangelical Protestants; they taught me many important things about the Christian life.
With the help they gave me I began to see that the Roman Catholic Church possessed the fullness of Christ's teaching and that it was in fact the Church Jesus founded. Once I returned to the Catholic Church, I had a deep desire to see Catholic students who were equipped to thrive on the college campus. FOCUS is the result of that desire.
Q: Why is campus ministry so important in the life of a Catholic?
Martin: The college years are part of what has been called the "critical decade," that time between the ages of 15 and 25 when young people make most of their major life decisions. Unfortunately, the years at the university are a time when a devastating number of students fall away from their faith.
Crisis Magazine reported in 2001 that by the end of their freshman year alone, half of the Catholic students who entered our nation's universities stop practicing their faith. By their senior year, up to nine out of 10 have drifted away from the Church. At the very time when young people are making major life decisions regarding their career and the rest of their lives, they are away from the very person who can give them the most direction: Jesus Christ.
FOCUS offers students a meaningful invitation to know Jesus Christ and to make him the Lord of their lives during this critical time. FOCUS provides valuable faith, team, moral and social experiences for the increasing population of Catholic college-age adults throughout the calendar year.
Beginning as a freshman in college, these experiences provide a source of positive activities and faith stimulus to grow in their Catholic faith, to improve their relationship with Jesus Christ, and to maintain their health and fitness as they grow in teamwork, sportsmanship, fair play, cooperation and leadership.
Increased self-confidence and leadership are but just a few of the many intangible benefits FOCUS offers to young adults of today. The result is lasting happiness, a sense of calling and true meaning in whatever Jesus Christ calls them to do.
Q: What are the key ingredients in FOCUS, and how do they meet the needs of college students?
Martin: FOCUS is a national outreach to college campuses, both to Catholic and non-Catholic schools. Our missionary program and services are targeted at bringing the fullness of life and truth of the Catholic Church to college students. Through small groups on campuses, we provide tools to help students share the good news of Jesus Christ and his Church with their friends.
We deliver our program through large group leadership training, team evangelization, small group Bible studies, and one-on-one discipleship. FOCUS hires recent college graduates, trains them and sends them out in teams of four to evangelize on the college campus.
College students need a sense of belonging; they are seeking community. Small-group Bible studies of six to eight students are little Christian communities in which the members learn together, challenge one another and grow in their ownership of the faith. They meet weekly and are led by a FOCUS staff member or trained student leader.
St. Paul urged his disciple St. Timothy in 2 ...
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