Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS, Msgr. Shea and Ryan Hanning (Kevin Theriault/CATHOLIC SUN)
Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS, University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea and Ryan Hanning, director of parish leadership support for the Diocese of Phoenix. (Kevin Theriault/CATHOLIC SUN)

TEMPE — Curtis Martin, President and Founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), one of the fastest growing movements in the Catholic Church, spoke Oct. 18 at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University.

The University of Mary sponsored the “Spark Your Faith” event, which sought to kindle the faith of university students. Martin sees this as a pivotal time, both in the life of the Church, and the lives of young people on campus.

“The university is the epicenter of the New Evangelization,” he said.

There are 16 million university students in the United States in the midst of a critical time in their lives where they can make any decision they want. Martin said that college students are part of an “anointed” generation, to whom the pope speaks to differently, with a “tone of prophecy.”

“You are the right people, at the right time, at the right period of life. We are ready to light the fire. You need a spark,” Martin said.

For Anna Brzozowski, the spark was lit when FOCUS reached out to her on campus at Texas State. A basketball player, Brzozowski had no Catholic friends on campus, and had never really shared her faith.

When FOCUS formed on her campus and approached her to be involved, she said yes. “God spoke to me to be a missionary when I led a Bible Study of my own, when I witnessed women falling in love with Jesus,” she said.

Brzozowski is now the team director for FOCUS at ASU, with the program now in its third year on campus.

“ASU is a challenge. This campus is in dire need to know who Jesus Christ is, so we are out there every day trying to make that happen,” Brzozowski said.

FOCUS is out on the campus mall every Tuesday and Thursday meeting students. Curtis Martin said, “As the culture gets darker, light shines best in the darkness. You will have young people on campus looking, and some will find it.”

“The key to the New Evangelization is the mustard seed,” Martin said. “So what we have to do is get small. Go out on campus and meet someone and good things begin to happen. You start building momentum.”

The scope of reaching everyone on a huge campus is overwhelming. FOCUS starts with meeting one or two, who then go out and meet three or four. “A staff of eight can’t reach 75,000 students, but maybe they can get 1,000 involved, and then the 1,000 might reach 10,000…and maybe 10,000 can reach 75,000,” Martin said.

ASU Freshman Alsatia Shope has been coming to the Newman Center since the Sunday before the beginning of this semester.

“When I was sitting there, I realized what a difference it would make if FOCUS wasn’t here, if there were no missionaries here who are young and really active in the community,” she said.

“I see it expanding to the community,” Shope said. “People who aren’t Catholic come here because this type of event is open and inviting to people who aren’t Catholic.”

Shope invited a non-Catholic friend to the event, to come and “get a taste of what it is like,” she said. “It makes me want to dive deeper into my faith now that I am on my own.”

FOCUS is currently active on 83 college campuses, including one “virtual campus” serving missionaries who work remotely with students at almost 50 colleges where there are no missionaries on the ground yet. FOCUS hopes to add 17 new campuses next year to reach 100 in just their 16th year of activity.

Ryan Hanning, director of parish leadership support for the Diocese of Phoenix, also spoke at the event. Catholic Universities proclaim boldly that, “there is a culture that believes there is a truth,” Hanning said. “Faith and reason can illumine truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

“Our faith is a love story,” Martin said. “All the teachings are true, but the reason we care is because He loves you.”

He likened this discovery to the man in the Matthew’s Gospel who discovers the great treasure in the field, and goes out to sell all he owns to buy the field.

“We ought to discover the treasure now; tonight!” Martin said. “That’s the spark that lights the fire.”

He noted that once you encounter Christ, you can never be the same. In John’s Gospel, the evangelist notes that when he began to follow Jesus, it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon. John bothers to mention the time because his life changed forever, right there.

The question Martin had for the audience of young students was this, “What is your 4 o’clock?”

Martin said each person needs to know that “You are amazing! You are wounded. God is provoked to mercy, and He desires to meet you in your woundedness. He loves you, even on your very worst day.”

So FOCUS goes out to meet people where they are.

“They are searching for Him,” he said. “They may not know it. You become the light, the flame that allows the university to become the epicenter of the New Evangelization.”

Faith at ASU

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