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FOCUS Conference Draws Thousands

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January 14, 2008 - 9:22 PST


Justin Bell (303) 522-0450
FOCUS Mission Communications

FOCUS National Conference Sets New Milestone
"Go, Set the World on Fire" draws thousands to Grapevine, Texas

DENVER, CO January 14, 2008 - Last weekend, The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (known as FOCUS), hosted its largest National Student Leadership Conference to date with the theme, "Go, and Set the World on Fire," in Grapevine, Texas.

Drawing over three thousand conference attendees, the conference was a significant historical moment for the organization celebrating its 10th anniversary. Staff members of FOCUS look to build upon the momentum of the conference to reach more students for Jesus Christ and his Church.

"The opportunity to see students gathered from around the country and watch God work in their lives was a truly amazing event. It was confirmation that what we believe God is doing on campuses throughout the year, He was in fact doing in the lives of these young people at the conference," said Curtis Martin, the President and Founder of FOCUS.

Held at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center from January 2-6, the conference featured keynote Catholic speakers such as Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R, Mother Assumpta Long, Deacon Alex Jones, Jeff Cavins, and Kansas City Royals All-Star Mike Sweeney. Dozens more delivered Impact and General Sessions throughout the five-day event.

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Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, delivered a keynote address on Saturday night in an electric atmosphere. He later commented about his impressions of the conference.

"I was delighted by the size of the conference, three thousand members of the JP II generation. That's young Catholics under 35 who have very distinctive and surprising characteristics- enthusiasm for faith, very strong sense of authenticity, interest in the Gospel, loyalty to Christ, and a real commitment to the life in the Gospel in the Church," said Fr. Groeschel.

One of those "JP II Catholics," Christine Hoang, a recent graduate of the University of Texas-Austin plans to take what she learned to back to her local church and teach other young Catholics about the New Evangelization.

"I just thought it was a really good experience, to come and get closer to God and learn about the New Evangelization which I did not even know about. I learned a lot at this FOCUS conference," said Hoang.

Andrew Harem, a junior at Colorado State University was not looking forward to leaving the community formed at the conference, but felt equipped to head back to his university.

"I'm definitely a lot stronger than I was when I came" Harem said. "I like to think of myself as a soldier... I'm built up. I have my armor back on, I'm ready to go back into the world and fight, fight for the right cause."

The soldier imagery is not a stretch for Harem who is also a 2nd Lieutenant the United States Marines.

Students from over 200 colleges and universities were represented, including Canada and Australia, well beyond the 33 campuses FOCUS serves. Perhaps the most staggering statistic of the conference is the estimated 1500 Confessions that took place during a Saturday night event. The main ballroom was opened into an Adoration chapel, and confession lines outlined the room. Nathan Stanley, FOCUS Team Director at the University of Wisconsin and Liturgy Committee Head of the Conference estimated at least 2000 confessions were heard throughout the five day event.

Over 100 priests attended to the students' spiritual needs over five days. Six Bishops from across the country attended the conference and celebrated Mass, including Fort Worth Bishop Kevin W. Vann, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F. M. Cap., Kansas City, KS Bishop Joseph F. Nauman, Fargo Bishop Samuel J. Aquila D.D., Kansas City/St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn, and Oakland Bishop Allen H. Vigneron.

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Students and presenters alike were inspired not only by the events of the conference, but by the participants.

"I don't think I've ever been in a group of young people who have been more open, or receptive, or grateful," said Mother Assumpta Long, one of the founders of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and a keynote speaker at the conference "It's been very, very gratifying and I think that it shows that God's working in them."

Kansas City Royals Five Time All-Star Mike Sweeney shared his "testimony" on Friday night and told students of a critical moment in his life when he turned to God after his baseball career looked to be soon ending. He decided to just give everything over to the Lord including his dating life. Toward the end of his testimony he encouraged sexual purity and chastity among the students. Later he offered his comments about the conference.

"It was fantastic. I was encouraged by the leadership of FOCUS, the priests and religious, and bishops," said Sweeney. "I was inspired by the electric faith of the young college men and women there. I am jealous and wish I had something like that when I was 21 years old. I am sure I would have allowed God to shape my life quicker than He did. It was a Grand Slam. I was blessed to be part of it."

A concert by Grammy Award winning band Third Day followed Mike Sweeney's address.

While God's mighty work at the conference is cause to celebrate, Curtis Martin is looking forward to the future of the apostolate.

"It's a good start," said Martin.

For highlights and pictures from the conference, please visit,

Founded in 1998, The Fellowship of Catholic University Students is a national student outreach organization serving both secular and Catholic college campuses. Through small group Bible studies, large group leadership training, and one-on-one discipleship, FOCUS brings the teachings of Christ and the faith and moral traditions of the Catholic Church to college students and gives them the tools to help share those teachings with their friends and family. FOCUS' primary objective is to form communities on college campuses nationwide where students can follow Jesus Christ and live out their Catholic faith in environments that are often hostile to such beliefs.


Justin Bell - associate for media relations, 303 522-0450




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