Though more than 8,500 Catholics attended the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference in Phoenix last week, an emphasis was been put on the power of prayer and sharing Christ in small groups.
On day four of the Student Leadership Summit (SLS20), undergraduate student leaders and non-student Catholics from traditional parishes were exhorted about the need to pray, small group discipleship, proclaiming the Gospel and having a Catholic worldview, among other topics.
Celebrating Mass in the morning, along with a legion of priests and bishops, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, preached on the authentic friendship of St. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen during.
From there, conference-goers could attend a variety of talks depending on their state in life and their interests.
During a session for those attending the Making Missionary Disciples track, FOCUS staffer Kelsey Skoch said that everyone deserves to hear the Gospel and “when you preach the Gospel, something always happens.” She recounted a Baptist woman contacting her after overhearing a FOCUS missionary share the Gospel with a student in a coffee shop.
Later in the session, Jim Jansen — another FOCUS leader — spoke on the need of missionary disciples at parishes. He followed up with a strategy laid out in the Book of Acts: teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread and shared prayer, emphasizing that prayer is the first step.
Kevin Cotter, a former FOCUS missionary and current executive director of Amazing Parish, spoke on how changing one’s prayer can change the world, along with the person praying. He suggested that parish staffs have a culture of prayer, teamwork and discipleship.
Throughout the day, many visited the large chapel — held in one of the rooms of the Phoenix Convention Center — for some quiet contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament in the midst of so much activity.
Fr. Michael Gaitley of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception spoke on the truth of spiritual multiplication, a strategy employed by FOCUS to teach others to teach the Gospel. He called this the “heart of evangelization.” Fr. Gaitley, who serves as the director of formation for the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, a group of young people who serve the poor in New England, authored the book “33 Days to Morning Glory,” which was used by the Diocese of Phoenix during its jubilee year to encourage families to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Popular speaker and evangelist, Damon Owens, called on his audience to develop a relationship with each person of the Holy Trinity and the balance of spending time in community and then going out on mission. Owens is the founder and executive director of “JoyToB — Proclaiming the Joy to Be.”
Owens said there is “no such thing as a halfway Christian,” and relayed the idea of renouncing everything to serve Christ and giving God everything, believing that God will give it back abundantly and ordered.
“Give him everything and you will not be disappointed,” said Owen.
Former FOCUS missionaries and long-serving FOCUS staff, enjoyed a dinner together and a time of guided Eucharistic Adoration at St. Mary’s Basilica across the street from the convention center. FOCUS alumnus, Fr. Nick Blaha, led the prayer session which included a shared intercessory prayer.
Keynote speakers of the evening were Dr. Jonathan Reyes and Dr. Helen Álvare who spoke on acknowledging the basic idea that humans were created by God and not created by themselves, which runs contrary to some modern notions.
Reyes, who leads evangelization and faith formation for the Knights of Columbus suggested prayer, study and God forming one’s mind. Among his reading recommendations were: “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis; “Theology and Sanity” by Frank Sheed; or “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton.
Álvare, a law professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, also pointed toward prayer, leading with a Catholic worldview and the sacraments as critical elements of a Catholic life.
Her fast-paced talk, prompted widespread laughter after she advised the audience to identify and remove three obstacles or distracting factors in their lives, and then that they would only have two left after they put their phones away.