Program #0517 for Monday, April 29, 2013: FOCUS missionaries at Harvard

April 29, 2013

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FOCUS missionaries at Harvard

FOCUS missionaries at Harvard

Summary of today’s show: Boston’s elite college, Harvard, for the first time this year had four college-age missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) on campus, which was already on 74 other college campuses around the country. Scot Landry talked to the four member team and campus minister Fr. Matt Westcott about the value that the missionaries add to campus life through the existing Catholic campus ministry and how they are forming genuine friendships and encouraging students to intentional discipleship in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s): Fr Matt Westcott, Michael Selenski, Tricia Lester, Elizabeth Hofer, Jennifer Stenzel, Daniel Paris

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: FOCUS missionaries at Harvard

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. On today’s broadcast, for the first year at Harvard there are five FOCUS missionaries working with Fr. Matt Westcott. Fr. Matt is in his second-year in campus ministry there. He said he is seeing a real difference in the students through this outreach in a new and unique way. Young people abotu the same age as missionaries can go places and say things a priest might not be able to.

FOCUS is the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. Daniel Paris said being a missionary is a calling. They move across the country, they fundraise their own salaries. They go on a dating fast for a year. It’s not just a normal post-college job. Daniel said he went on a FOCUS conference a year after graduation. He felt a call at that time for further study so he went to grad school in Denver for two years. Scot asked him about the Augustine Institute where he studied. Daniel compared it to the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization in Boston. It’s vision is to form lay leaders for evangelization and many will end up working for the Church in various pastoral ministries. Daniel said his year has been a challenge and fruitful. The students keep him on his toes.

Tricia Lester attended Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland and is from Philadelphia. She’s a second-year FOCUS missionary. She was at University of Connecticut last year. She has committed to a third year because she loves it so much. She said she is always asked why she does this and what difference it makes. She said it improves her relationship with Jesus grow because she’s asked to share it every day. Tricia said every missionary’s week is different, but she leads a couple of Bible studies each week, has mentorships with a few students who lead their own Bible studies, meets with students who are curious wherever they are.

Tricia said she has about 15 students total in her Bible studies. She has three students in discipleship she’s praying with and then there’s 10 to 15 more students she’s meeting with regularly to see if they’re interested in getting involved.

Daniel said discipleship is the next step after a Bible study. It’s an intentional friendship where they are striding side-by-side toward Christ and the missionary i a mentor. They help them cultivate sobriety, chastity, and excellence, the big three virtues.

Scot asked Tricia what an intentional friendship is. She said all friendships should be intentional, oriented toward getting toward heaven. She went to a girl’s rugby game this past weekend to show her she supports her in all she’s doing. Those interactions help build trust so the girl can come to her when she has questions.

Scot asked about the three virtues Daniel mentioned. He asked if they are the only group on campus preaching sobriety and excellence. Daniel said there’s a hug drinking culture on campuses across the US. They model responsible drinking by going out with students who are of age and having only a couple of drinks. Tricia said excellence is interesting at Harvard. It’s about where you want to have your success? It’s about using your God-given gifts to the fullest.

Daniel talked about the fundraising aspects in which the missionaries get together with people one on one, tell them why they are doing this with their life, share the mission of FOCUS, and invite them to join the mission. Daniel said he got into a conversation with his dentist who was filling his cavity. She said she was a nominal Catholic and as she talked to him, she talked herself into going back to church and going to confession. Daniel felt called to get her the book “Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly. She was so moved that she chose to help him.

Daniel said it’s so cool being the first missionaries at Harvard. He had one student he met whose sister won a gold medal at the Olympics. And they also get to lay the ground work for all future missionaries at Harvard.

Tricia compared being at UConn, where she inherited the work others had started, where at Harvard they were starting from scratch.

Fr. Matt said the people of the Archdiocese should be glad not just that the missionaries are Harvard, BU, and MIT, but that the quality of the missionaries are so high. The students on these campuses are thirty for what they have to offer.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Michael Selenski, who leads the FOCUS team. He said he studied business entrepreneurship in college and this opportunity to start a new mission at Harvard is a great challenge. He is a third-year missionary and was at Drake in Iowa previously. He noted that there are 74 different campuses where FOCUS works and he was one of the team directors. He had expressed interest in going East and so he was sent to Harvard. Michael said he never expected there to be as many Catholics on campus as there are and he was shocked by the numbers of students at Mass on Sunday. He said the big challenge is to draw them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Michael said he renewed his commitment to FOCUS because he just can’t walk away, even though he’s thinking about grad school and misses his family in Minnesota. Every time he asks God where he wants him to be, he just can’t walk away. He feels like he’s become a new man over the past three years.

Scot welcomed ELizabeth Hofer, who’s from South Dakota and is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She’s a first-year missionary. Scot asked her what the adjustment has been like for her. She said she was scared to go to Cambridge because she misses the Black Hills of South Dakota, but her heart was well prepared. When asked what she loved best about Harvard and she thought of how the students thirst for Christ, and felt put to shame by them. Scot asked her to explain what’s so great about the Black Hills. She said it’s so beautiful and it’s unique. It’s not majestic like the Rockies, but it’s home and welcoming. Mount Rushmore is within the Black Hills.

ELizabeth said last year at this time she wouldn’t even consider being a FOCUS missionary. She thought they were great but it was the last thing she wanted to do. She was planning on going to law school. Then she went to a holy hour, she found she could say yes to applying to become a missionary. She never thought she’d be hired. Then she was terrified they would. Even after she was hired, she kind of hoped her spiritual director would say she shouldn’t. But the greatest joy for her was seeing how Christ cares for us and loves us. It’s been a difficult year, but there’s such a joy and a peace. She said, Be careful. If you give Christ your heart, he’ll take advantage of it. She said you’ll set the world on fire and you’ll know Christians by the terror in their eyes. Being transformed and sanctified is terrifying and amazing.

Scot welcomed Jennifer Stenzel to the show. She joined the missionary team at mid-year. She’s a first-year missionary. She had some unique challenges in that everyone else had already established themselves and their ministries, but she also had four people to look up to see what they were doing. She said that at the end of her freshman year at George Mason University, she thought about being a missionary. She’d come to college very far from her faith, but the missionaries reached out to her and helped her faith grow. So by the end of her junior year she was sure because of the beautiful and genuine relationships. She talked about mentoring other girls and leading Bible studies while an undergraduate.

Michael said the traditional or standard FOCUS team is four people and a handful of schools have a larger program. Scot said a parish evangelization best practice is forming small groups. He asked Michael what he’s learned about leading small groups and faith-sharing groups that says they’re a wonderful way to build faith. Michael said there’s a lack of genuine brotherhood among men, especially on college campuses. He said so many students have drinking buddies, video game buddies, sports buddies, but they don’t have people in their lives asking them how they’re praying, what they’re living for, how they’re becoming stronger men of God. In the context of a small-group Bible study exploring Scripture together is transformational. He said after two years at Drake many of the men would say that he was their best friend. It’s so easy to wear a mask and act like everything’s ok, but in a small group they open up and are genuine with each other.

Michael said the ideal small group is anywhere from 6 to 8 for a small-group Bible study. Over ten people loses the sense of openness and trust and people can hide in the crowd. Six to eight helps long-lasting friendships grow.

Scot asked Elizabeth about the structure of the Bible studies. She said FOCUS provides many resources that are available at They also sell many Bible studies as well. But on other occasions, they just study the Scripture of the day like on Ash Wednesday, perhaps through the lectio divina method.

Scot said he thinks most Catholics have never opened the Bible other than Mass readings. He asked how difficult is it to get Catholics to join the Bible study? Elizabeth said she once advertised her Bible study without saying it was a Bible study, but an opportunity to pray and talk about Christ in their lives and some who said they couldn’t make a Bible study said they wanted to come.

Scot asked Jennifer about the training they receive. She said they have five weeks during the study. It’s one third boot camp, one third retreat, and one third grad school. From 8am to 10pm is structured every day with Mass and holy hours, and then classes in speaking, apologetics, fundraising and more. Plus opportunities for fellowship. They also have many resources online for continued study throughout the year.

Michael said time and again he’s reminded of how important prayer is to their work. He said with the challenges of Harvard he’s often reminded of how important prayer is, not just by them, but from others supporting them in prayer. He added that they all fundraise their own salaries and need financial support to take students out for coffee or dinner, to throw parties, and even to go on missionary trips outside the country. If anyone is interested in learning more email

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