HILTON HEAD—While many of her peers are exploring the career world, Martha Griswold, 22, will spend the next two years teaching students about the love of Christ and the Catholic faith.
Griswold, a member of St. Francis by the Sea Church and recent graduate of Ave Maria University, will work as a missionary at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
The FOCUS website (www.focusonline.org) lists its organization’s goals as helping young Catholics develop their relationship with Christ, sharing the Gospel message, and living in a way that will transform the culture.
FOCUS started in 1998 at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. It was founded by Curtis and Michaelann Martin, who were inspired by the message of new evangelization promoted by Pope John Paul II.
The movement expanded from four missionaries serving on one campus to more than 250 working on 60 campuses in 28 states. Currently, the program isn’t available on any campuses in South Carolina.
FOCUS also runs Varsity Catholic for student-athletes, and FOCUS Greek for Catholics in sororities and fraternities.
Griswold learned about the organization through friends who worked as missionaries. In April, she attended a weekend session to learn more about the group and its interview and application process. Shortly after, she said, FOCUS members informed her that she had been accepted.
“I prayed about it for a couple of days because I really felt like God was calling me to do this,” she said. It was especially meaningful that the phone call from FOCUS came while she was in the middle of a holy hour of prayer to help a friend who was discerning a vocation.
In June and July, she attended a five-week training session in Champaign, Ill., studying apologetics, evangelization and Scripture. She also learned how to build a network of mission partners who will help support her financially and spiritually through the two-year period.
Griswold said her assignment in Nebraska will force her to acclimate to a very different climate, but she’s looking forward to the challenges.
She will live with other missionaries in a house about 10 minutes from campus, and work with all faiths through large- and small-group discussions, Scripture study, talks on apologetics and morality, and mentoring.
These are important topics when 85 percent of Catholic college students do not attend Sunday Mass, according to statistics on the organization’s website.
Griswold said FOCUS isn’t meant to replace a campus Newman Center or other Catholic ministry. Instead, the missionaries seek to team up with other ministries to reach out to Catholic students wherever they are, through daily campus life and experiences.
“We’re there to meet with students wherever they’re at, whether they’re wanting to go deeper into their faith or just to help them know that we’re Catholic and this is what we believe,” she said. “Through mentoring, we want to help students fall in love with their faith, help them go that much deeper so they can take what they know and share it with other students.”