Back to college with FOCUS

While Catholic students at colleges around the country prepare for the start of classes, seven college graduates and students from the Diocese of Peoria are preparing to help them grow stronger in their faith.

Six young adults — RyAnne Folck, Alex Kale, Matt Faley, Tom Bruner, Mark Joseph and Jenny Witt, all of whom hail from Peoria-area parishes and are graduates of Peoria Notre Dame High School — will serve this academic year as campus missionaries with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

A seventh graduate of Peoria Notre Dame, John Paul Rudolph, will work at FOCUS headquarters in Denver as marketing program manager for mission communication, a position that will have him visiting university campuses across the country.

The six are among the 79 new FOCUS lay missionaries who were commissioned July 4 during new staff training on the campus of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C. A total of 197 missionaries went through training this summer. Rudolph was commissioned later.

Founded in 1998 by Curtis Martin, FOCUS works in tandem with Newman Centers as an outreach to Catholic university students. It will send more than 200 missionaries to 39 campuses in 21 states this year.

The FOCUS organization has an active presence on several campuses within the diocese, including the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington-Normal, Bradley in Peoria, and Western Illinois in Macomb.

“For all of us as missionaries, our personal goal is to know Christ Jesus and to love him better,” Witt told The Catholic Post during a July 20 “send-off” picnic for the six missionaries from the Peoria diocese. The picnic took place at the Pekin home of Bruner’s parents.

To prepare for their assignments, the six new Peoria-area missionaries went through five weeks of training, which they describe as “one-third graduate school, one-third spiritual retreat, one-third boot camp.”

The sense of common purpose also gave the training a feeling of “family,” according to Folck — a sense that was reinforced by the presence of FOCUS president Martin’s eight children, she added.

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