6 Thousand College Student Meet in Orlando to “FOCUS” on True Conversion

The Mercedarian Friars and Sisters joined thousands of University Students at the FOCUS conference in Orlando, Florida January 2nd-6th. Here is an explanation of this event and the important work of FOCUS:

Sr Ana prays before the Blessed Sacrament.

Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is a flourishing new organization dedicated to re-evangelize America’s college campuses. Fourteen years ago, the movement began with the simple purpose of inviting college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship, and friendship in which they lead others to do the same.

Like the Early Church, the FOCUS movement seeks plant “the mustard seed” of faith throughout the United States. Beginning with our nation’s future leaders, FOCUS sends teams of young, trained missionaries to the college campus in order to reach students with the gospel. In partnership with the university parish and/or Newman Center, FOCUS missionaries host large group outreach events, weekly Bible studies and offer one-on-one mentoring with student leaders. These FOCUS missionaries are now found in 74 campuses throughout the United States

Every two years, FOCUS has a natural conference, which inspires thousands of youth through dynamic orthodox talks, fellowship, and a strong emphasis on the Sacraments. This year’s conference is called “SEEK”. Over 6 thousand Catholic College students travel thousands of miles to Orlando, Florida in search of that which is “true, beautiful, and good”. They were not disappointed as they came face to face with Christ through Catholic orthodox teaching, Eucharistic Adoration, and the Sacraments.

Sr Rosaria, SOLM with our display.
Sr Rosaria, SOLM with our display.

The Mercedarian Friars and Sisters attended the conference for the first time this January. They were edified by the enormous number of students and their openness to the Gospel message. This message included several talks on such counter-cultural topics as: chastity before marriage, Pro-life activism, combating relativism, respecting the dignity of women, and the deadly effects of sin on the soul.

The highlight of the weekend was on Friday night. On this evening, Fr. Michael Keating, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, confronted the students with the deadly effects of sin on the soul and the need for conversion. The students were encouraged to adore the Most Blessed Sacrament and make a complete examination of conscience. They then were given the opportunity to receive God’s Mercy through the Sacrament of Confession. There 125 priests available to hear the confessions of thousands of students. The power of God’s grace was present as over 5 thousand students went to confession and received the Lord’s unfathomable mercy. With joy, the priests heard confessions for over 4 hours into the early morning on Saturday!

Fr Joseph hangs out with some hobbits at the Conference.
Fr Joseph hangs out with some hobbits at the Conference.

In these times when we can get discouraged with the increasing secularization of America, it is great to know that God is working powerfully through such groups as FOCUS. May the Lord continue to bless this organization, which seeks to evangelize the youth and bring them into an authentic relationship with their Savior Jesus Christ and His Body the Church!



Is your faith a bastion for martyrdom?

The Mercedarians gave a talk to a FOCUS group  just outside Philadelphia, PA. Answering the Church’s call for a new evangelization, FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith.

Fr Joseph gives a talk to FOCUS missionaries

Is your faith a bastion for martyrdom? The leaders of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students faced this question during their missionary retreat in Pennsylvania. To help the FOCUS leaders commit more radically to the Lord so as to better witness to the students at universities to whom they minister, Fr. Joseph Eddy, O.de.M. provided the missionaries with inspiring talks on martyrdom, and the example of the martyrs of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
Martyrdom, the true and highest gift of witness to Christ and the Faith, is a grace given by God. But all the faithful are called to perfection, to the same heroic witness of charity. This entails imitating Christ so as to fulfill His Father’s will and to nourish our faith with an incessant commitment to the Gospel. This is why the FOCUS Missionaries attend Mass and make holy hours with the Eucharist several times a week, so that they can be with Christ and take Him out to the students and even the world, to “consecrate the world itself” to God (Lumen Gentium).
The Mercedarian Order was founded by St. Peter Nolasco through the Blessed Virgin Mary, to participate in the Lamb of God’s sacrificial, ransoming mission for the redemption of the world, specifically by freeing Christian captives in danger of losing the Faith. The Mercedarians today continue to seek the same freedom of captives in danger of giving up the one, true Faith. The friars, in professing the Fourth Vow (the Blood Vow), willingly choose, in charity, to give up their lives for the redemption of captives, should it be necessary.
But, there is another martyrdom that exists and that is practiced by the faithful of the Church. It is the white martyrdom of community life. This daily dying of those undergoing the ordinary sufferings of family and community life enables true sanctification. Then, these souls, by their witness, can encourage others who are struggling to persevere in the faith. Praying constantly for faith, living theological hope, and begging for the strengthening of captive Christians, martyrdom was a grace given to some Mercedarians for the glory of God, the ultimate witness of Christ’s love and Truth. Today, when the world attacks faith through skepticism, hedonism and all forms of self-idolatry, Jesus’ call to perfection remains. We may or may not one day be a martyr like St. Serapion and other Mercedarians. But it is certain that we must be holy, endure the white martyrdom, and follow the will of God for the sake of the conversion of the world and the salvation of the Church in trial. That total love which Christ gave us on the Cross—and the love that He asks us to give to others—is nothing but the same heroism of a martyr’s love.

A Mercedarian Postulant