Summary of today’s show: The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has been present on college campuses around the country for 14 years, reaching out to tens of thousands of Catholic students to introduce them to Jesus Christ. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams talk with Curtis Martin, the founder of FOCUS, about the FOCUS difference, the intense training and strategic plan they give their missionaries, and how they call people to live heroically for something bigger than themselves. Also, they discuss Curtis’ appointment as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization in Rome.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams
Today’s guest(s): Curtis Martin
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Curtis Martin, evangelizing on campus, and the New Evangelization
1st segment: Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams talked about the annual Middle School Harbor Cruise. They started at Our Lady of Good Voyage chapel on the harbor, where they had a catechesis on the Eucharist and a little bit of Adoration. He said toward the end of the evening the thunderstorms hit and the light show was pretty spectacular.
Tomorrow is a youth ministry gathering, a beach day for those who work in ministry, starting with Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas in Nahant followed by a beach party.
Scot welcomed Curtis Martin to the show. Curtis is founder and president of Fellowship of Catholic University Students, which has presence on several local college campuses, Boston University and MIT. They will be adding Harvard this fall. Scot said Curtis spoke at the Boston Catholic Men’s Conference a few years ago.
Curtis said there are a lot of exciting things going on in Boston. He said there is a great local parish near Harvard in St. Paul’s, which helps their efforts greatly.
Scot said FOCUS missionary is said to be the toughest job they will ever have because they have to raise their own funds and talk in sometimes hostile environments on college campuses. Curtis said being a missionary is awesome and you’re paired with great people, but it’s really tough. Curtis said they are right on the front lines and they don’t pull punches. This young generation wants to do great things for great reasons. The New Evangelizations is a great cause. They just completed their training with 110 new missionaries to become part of 450 missionary staff around the country.
Scot said FOCUS is about 14 years old. People often lower their expectations for young people. Do young people respond because Curtis sets expectations so high? Curtis said secular culture treats them like consumers and the Church is sometimes tempted to talk down to them too. Christ is calling us into a life of holiness and greatness. He sees young people making heroic decisions one after another and we need a nation full of young people like that.
Fr. Matt asked what qualities does he see in the missionaries that makes them successful. Curtis said friendship and broke it down to friendship with Jesus Christ personally; friendship with peers, like the students on campus just a couple years younger than them; and friendship with leaders in the Church, like local pastors.
Curtis said there are great Catholic colleges and Newman Centers around the country. What makes FOCUS different is that it’s a lay outreach. Most are in their early 20s on campus engaged with students. They go out onto to campus to meet students in libraries, athletic fields, and everywhere to draw them back to the Newman Center. That’s where they can engage a vibrant Newman Center.
Scot said he’s amazed at how the missionaries have to raise a significant amount of money themselves to support their mission. Curtis said they raise their basic living expenses from friends, family and parishioners. They raise about $2,000 per month. He said they don’t want them going broke serving FOCUS. They ask for a two year commitment and the average is 3-1/2 years.
When they raise money, they want them to talk about what’s going on with the Church, what’s going on with young people, and what’s going on in the donors’ lives. It’s a form of evangelization. They also find the donors tend to pray for the missionaries in addition not giving money. Where your heart is, there is your treasure.
Scot asked Curtis what inspired the idea. He grew up Catholic but drifted in his adolescence. He said he had a come to God experience his sophomore year in college. He came to know Jesus personally along with some Evangelical friends. As he grew in his faith, questions arose about his faith and it led him back to the Catholic Church. He realized then that there was no outreach on college campuses for Catholics like there were for Evangelicals. They build a new model and bishops wherever they’ve gone have been very receptive.
Scot said they are receptive because FOCUS has a proven impact wherever they go. The witness of FOCUS missionaries on campus makes a difference.
Curtis said they go wherever they are welcomed and so they serve both secular and Catholic colleges. They’re even going to Baylor in Texas, which is the largest Southern Baptist college in the country. Ninety percent of Catholic college students don’t go to Catholic schools and they pretty much have followed that ratio in their efforts.
Fr. Matt asked why FOCUS is the place the Church should put its efforts. Curtis said there’s not a part in the human lifecycle in this culture that isn’t in desperate need for renewal in Christ, from before birth to death. If you have to go everywhere, where do you start? They think it’s universities. You can go to 2nd graders, but they don’t autonomy to serve. You can go to nursing homes, but they won’t be able to serve long. University students have the rest of their adult life to serve and can begin immediately. No other institutions gathers young people in the numbers that universities do, 10,000 people, 20,000 or more. They can influence the next generation of parents, priests, and religious. Almost all of our future leaders will pass through universities.
Scot said on the FOCUS website, they don’t have a mission statement, but a “main thing”.
Inviting College Students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.
Inspiring and Equipping them for a Lifetime of Christ-centered Evangelization,
Discipleship, and Friendships in which they lead others to do the same.
Curtis said FOCUS launches college students in lifelong Catholic mission. Whether it’s the new working document for the upcoming synod this October or the almost daily comments from Pope Benedict, there is a growing sense we have to talk about our faith in terms of our relationship with God. It is in real deep friendship that we love. The Church exists to people into right relationships with God, one another, and ourselves. The reason we need Christ, because we find ourselves desperately lonely without Him.
If we don’t have the ability behave how a friend would behave, we won’t have friends. Young people today have thousands of “friends” on Facebook, but not many real, good friendships with people they share life with. They may come from a broken home and no or one sibling they are close with. The average young Italian doesn’t have a brother, sister or first cousin because they are only children of only children.
Fr. Matt said rules without relationship equals rebellion. Friendship with Christ helps us to understand his teachings.He said he downloaded the FOCUS app on his iPhone and asked him about it.
Curtis said there is a website at focusequip.org with resources, including phone apps. He said St. Augustine asked one question: What will make me authentically happy? Pope John Paul II walked through the false ideologies of Nazis and Communists and asked what would satisfy people. It’s Catholicism. Relationship gives us the why. You can give a doctoral dissertation on adultery, but we don’t do it because we love our wives. John Paul II shared his friendship with Christ with those he spent time with. If we’re friends then my friends become your friends. Not everyone is called to do soap-box evangelization, but everyone is called to friendship evangelization.
Scot asked what things do well-meaning people do that doesn’t help bring people to Christ. Curtis said he’s met a lot of men in his ministry around the country, and men in particular tend to be successful at work because they are strategic, but in our faith we’re not strategic. Good farmers outproduce bad farmers, but God always causes the growth. But he gave us rules to live by. You need a strategic plan: Win, Build, Send.
- Win people into relationship by going out and doing things you love to do with other people and do things they love to do.
- Build them up: what do you need to know to think like a Christian? What do you need to be formed in to act like a Christian? What skills do you need to be an effective leader?
- Now send them out to win more people.
The most central form of leadership is self-control, to lead oneself.
Curtis said one of the reasons they ask for a two-year commitment because that’s how much time they need to train them. They start with a five-week training session from the very beginning. They are trained in prayer, leading bible study, apologetics, fundraising. After that five weeks, all of the missionaries serve on teams and for the whole next school year, they are mentored by a veteran missionary. In the following summer they come back for five more weeks of training. Only then do they consider the initial training is finished. At this pint they are committed lifetime learners.
Scot asked about the resources it takes for the overall national organization. Howcan people support FOCUS or a particular missionary. Curtis said it’s essential that people who work for the Church are cared for. Go to FOCUS.org and adopt a missionary or to support a particular project.
Scot said Curtis is one of two Americans appointed to serve as consultors for the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization in Rome.
2nd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Maria Ippolito from Reading, MA
She wins a Glory Stories CD: Be Not Afraid, the Story of Blessed John Paul II and a “Gospel Champions” computer game.
If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.
3rd segment: Scot read the prayer for religious liberty from the Fortnight for Freedom campaign. He then said the Vatican has called a Synod of bishops for the New Evangelization in Rome this October as well as the Pontifical Council.
He asked what it was like for him and Ralph Martin, no relation, to be two Americans called to assist the Pontifical Council. Curtis said he would never guessed when he was elected that Pope Benedict would make the new evangelization am ajar theme of his pontificate. Curtis said his major role will be to listen and to share it with others and when asked to give his two cents. The Pontifical Council has only been around for about a year.
He said the synod will be an exciting time. After the synod, Pope Benedict will issue a papal document to the world on the New Evangelization that will give the marching orders for the New Evangelization, who is supposed to be involved and what we are supposed to do. Curtis said it’s an exciting time in the Church’s history when he vigor for the faith incoming back with tremendous power.
Scot asked Curtis to compare evangelization in the US to what’s going on around the world. Curtis said the message he’s been receiving as a consultor is that there’s a sense the Church is looking to America, North and South, for inspiration. In the Americas there is the family-centered devotional life of the Latino communities plus the entrepreneurial drive and if we could bring those together, we could bring about a major change in the New Evangelization effort. In Europe, they are looking for the Americas to re-evangelize Europe. There is a real Catholic wealth living in the two halves of our continents and if we can bring them together, we could be a real blessing to the world.
Curtis said to look at the apostles. They lived with Jesus for three years, but even after the Resurrection, they were hiding in the upper room until the Holy Spirit was sent. Without the Holy Spirit we can’t bring the faith to the world. We need to learn to rely on the Holy Spirit and to live in a state of grace. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in us to give us the power to live the life of Christ. In can’t be about us, but God working through us. We have to be open to the Spirit’s promptings.
Scot asked for his hopes for the Year of Faith in the US. Curtis said it’s a call to come back to the foot of the Cross to live a life for Christ. We don’t live very differently from the rest oft he world as Catholics. If Christ lives within us, then we should living radically different lives. Many Catholics have allowed the secular culture to speak to them more loudly than the Church has. Faith is the gift that allows you to see things that aren’t visible: the Trinity, grace, the Eucharist. If you have faith, you will live differently.
Scot said one of FOCUS’s two missionaries at Boston University has entered religious life. How important is that to FOCUS in terms of its impact? Curtis said it’s wonderful to see people responding to their vocation. FOCUS is calling people to hear how Christi is calling them to live their lives. In 14 years, they’ve seen 75 women in their programs go on to religious life and 270 men have entered seminary, more than half of them in the last 4 years. There is snowball of people going on to live lives in which they are hearing God’s call for them.