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Experiencing FOCUS conference

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Over New Years’, my wife, Kathy, and I attended the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) SLS20 Conference in Phoenix. We joined approximately 9,000 participants including some 20 bishops, more than 300 priests, a dozen deacons, many seminarians, religious, campus ministry staff, parish volunteers, benefactors, and thousands of students from the 173 campuses that FOCUS serves in the U.S. and Europe and from a number of other campuses. 

There were keynote talks by nationally recognized speakers, breakout sessions along several tracks for students and those in campus ministry and parishes, and reverent liturgies that challenged and inspired. 

One highlight of the conference was Eucharistic Adoration Wednesday evening. While priests heard more than 3,000 confessions, thousands knelt to offer prayer and songs of praise to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, a powerful example of the divine intimacy that missionary disciples strive for.

This was our second FOCUS conference. Last January, we attended the SEEK 2019 Conference in Indianapolis, at which FOCUS first presented a track titled “Making Missionary Disciples” specifically for parish leaders. In this track, FOCUS missionary alumni began the process of sharing with parish leaders how FOCUS follows the proven method of evangelizing what Jesus modeled to his apostles: investing deeply in intimate friendship with a few; sharing the Gospel message and forming them in the Faith; and preparing them to go out and lead others to encounter Christ. There were sessions on leading small groups, praying with and sharing Scripture, and intercessory prayer. Kathy and I learned a great deal that first conference, and we both have started small group Bible Studies at our parish of St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax.

This year, there were more than 1,200 clergy and lay parish leaders in the Making Missionary Disciples track. FOCUS opened more of its tool kit to enable us to bring to our parishes the great results that the FOCUS missionaries and student small group leaders have brought about on campus. At SLS20, we were led through the process of effectively sharing our own personal testimonies about the impact that a relationship with Christ has made in our lives and learned the steps of sharing the essential elements of the Gospel message.

The keynote speakers and other presenters were clear in their message that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important relationship in our lives, that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life for all of humanity. 

Many in the world today have turned their backs on Jesus, out of ignorance of his truth, distraction by the things of this world, or hostility toward the conversion that his Truth calls us to. Yet many are longing deeply for someone who really knows them, who loves them for who they are and will never abandon them, and who desires nothing more than their authentic happiness. 

The speakers emphasized that the Lord’s great commission to his small group of close friends, to go and make disciples of all nations, is still relevant and urgently requires our response. To be a disciple on mission requires of us everything we can give, but there is so much at stake. More than 9,000 mostly young persons, and a few of us older folks, heard our call to missionary discipleship last week and came away on fire to grow ever more deeply in our own intimate relationship with Jesus and to bring the Gospel to our campuses and parishes.

We hear so much bad news these days and see many discouraging trends in our culture. The passion of these and so many other missionary disciples give us reason for great hope. 

The next FOCUS conference, SEEK21, will be held in St. Louis, Dec. 30, 2020–Jan. 3, 2021. It will include an even more extensive Making Missionary Disciples track. 

Deacon Maurer serves at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.

Watch the video


To watch the liturgies, keynote speakers and presentations, go to youtube.com/FOCUSNational.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020