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Mission of a college campus: Fellowship of Catholic students launches at St. Thomas More Oratory at University of Delaware

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Maria Mummert, left, and Katherine Burns are launching FOCUS at St. Thomas More Oratory. Dialog photo/Don Blake

NEWARK — Campus ministry at the University of Delaware will add a component this fall as the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has established a presence on the Newark campus for the first time.

FOCUS is an outreach whose mission is “to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same,” according to its website. It was founded in 1998 with two missionaries at Benedictine College.

Two young women in their third year with the organization, Maria Mummert and Kate Burns, arrived in Newark in early August to begin preparations for the 2022-23 academic year. Mummert, the team director, said FOCUS has been looking to establish a chapter at Delaware for a few years now. They have been welcomed by Oblate Father Tim McIntire, the pastor of St. Thomas More Oratory, and University of Delaware campus minister William Hamant.

Hamant said campus ministry and FOCUS have different target audiences. Campus ministry’s programming is generally for those students who are already practicing their faith.

Katherine Burns, left, and Maria Mummert are launching FOCUS at St. Thomas More Oratory. Dialog photo/Don Blake

“But FOCUS missionaries are just that: missionaries,” Hamant said. “The new mission territories are college campuses because that’s where so many people, even if they’ve grown up Christian, they fall away from their faith. They stop practicing it. The advantage of having missionaries on campus whose target audience is college students is they can go out and bring people in who aren’t actively practicing their faith.”

Mummert, who spent the last two years at the University of Pittsburgh, said it is her and Burns’ mission to get students to know Jesus and “to fulfill his great commission,” which is to make disciples of all nations. They aim to do that “through the lens of personal relationships with God and each of the students.”

She and Burns will be around the campus in the early part of the school year to introduce FOCUS to the community. They will hold Bible studies and other programming, “which is basically the same thing that Jesus did. Everything that we do is modeled after what Christ did with his disciples and the apostles.”

William Hamant

According to the FOCUS website, its missionaries have spread the gospel message to tens of thousands of college students. Its missionaries meet students “where they are” and make an investment in their lives, then inviting those students to share the good news with everyone they meet.

The organization says there are 861 missionaries in 216 locations, including 193 college campuses and 23 parishes.

Burns said she and Mummert spent part of the early summer at Ave Maria University in Florida for training, and they completed more once they moved to Delaware. She is confident that the word about FOCUS will spread relatively quickly.

“The hope would be that after the first couple of weeks on campus, that the students who are coming to Mass every week would get to know us,” said Burns, who was a missionary at Drexel University in Philadelphia last year.

The leaders of FOCUS ultimately determine where missionaries and team leaders will serve, but Mummert and Burns had some say because of their previous service with the organization. Not only are they relatively close to home — Mummert is from the Hampton Roads, Va., area, and Burns from New Jersey — but they are excited about the idea of coming to a university that is just starting with FOCUS.

“This is definitely different from our previous experiences in the sense that FOCUS wasn’t here previously. So, we’re getting our footing, getting students regularly involved. It’s almost like starting from ground zero and building the ministry up. It’s definitely a little daunting, but I think it’s a huge opportunity to cast the nets wide and bring a lot of people in,” Burns said.

“Taking that general mold of what FOCUS does and forming that to what the University of Delaware needs is a really cool opportunity,” Mummert added.

Hamant said he and Father McIntire are ready to see how the presence of FOCUS impacts campus ministry.

“There’s a real complementarity there between the work that they do and the programming that we offer here. You almost can’t have one without the other,” he said. “I’m so excited to have them. We’re doing a lot of planning at this stage. I’m just very excited about how this semester’s going to shape up.”