The following story appeared in the September 10 Idaho Catholic Register.
The Aug. 27 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register introduced five Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries. They included Erick Christensen, a Boise State graduate, now serving at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va; Bryson Brown, a BSU graduate now serving at the University of Maine’s Orono campus; Cooper Dow and his fiancé, Emily Campbell, missionaries at Idaho State University in Pocatello; and Bryson Thomas, a FOCUS missionary at the University of Idaho in Moscow.
This week we profile five more: Alicia Fanning, a University of Idaho graduate now serving at Boise State; Anna Evans and Thomas Kuzis, both serving at Boise State; and Molly Schwartz and Emily Ambrosio, who both service at the University of Idaho.
Alicia Fanning. A native of Arlington, Wash., Fanning first considered a call to become a FOCUS missionary during her sophomore year at the University of Idaho when she participated in a mission trip to Jamaica. She writes:
“There is no greater poverty than the poverty of our spirit. This is what drives my passion for college students. College students are at the point of their life where they are incredibly vulnerable, overwhelmed, and stressed. God has called me to serve these students, to love them, and to bring them to His light.
“Before I became a missionary, I was serving the students of the University
of Idaho as a disciple and Bible study leader. The miracles and conversions of
hearts that happened within the Greek community were beautiful and long-lasting. I will now be serving at Boise State University. My Father God knows my heart perfectly and knew that I was not yet ready to leave the great state of Idaho, and has allowed me to stay for at least another year to continue our mission to bring Christ to Idaho students.”
Anna Evans. Evans, now serving at Boise State, is from a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. She graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, with degrees in Catholic Studies and Spanish. She writes:
“I was raised in a loving, Catholic family who provided many opportunities for encountering Christ as I grew up. Many of these opportunities came through NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries, as its headquarters is only minutes from my home. On one retreat there in high
school, I encountered Christ’s love
personally in the Eucharist. Though I always knew and believed that Jesus loves everyone, it wasn’t until this retreat that I realized He had a personal love for me and a desire for me to follow Him as His disciple.
“Because of this experience, I knew I could not keep the incredible message of the Gospel from anyone I met. During a gap year between high school and college, I served with NET Ministries on a retreat team in California. From there I decided to attend the University of Mary, a university I knew would both strengthen my faith and provide opportunities for evangelization. While in college, I joined a FOCUS Bible study and walked in discipleship with Christ with my friends and the missionaries on campus. ... They showed me that a life for Christ is one lived with intention and purpose, and that purpose is to bring as many people to heaven with us as possible.
“One very tangible way that God has provided for me throughout my life has been in friends and community that have encouraged me through their words and example to live my life for Christ. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone – Jesus Himself gave us the Church! However, I realize that my experience of joyful, faithful friendships is not the norm. As a FOCUS missionary, I am excited not only to walk with women on the college campus, learning what it means to live fully alive in Christ together, but to help them uncover the way that the Gospel brings light to their own unique story. Jesus said, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10) What a gift it is to invite college students into this fullness of life.”
Thomas Kuzis. Kuzis, a native of Camas, Wash., attended the Colorado School of Mines and received a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He has competed in Olympic style rifle shooting and is an avid rock climber. He writes:
“I grew up a cradle Catholic and attended Catholic schools. I was an altar server at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Camas, Wash., from 2nd grade until we moved nine years later, at which time I was the head acolyte of our parish. I volunteered with both St. Vincent de Paul and the Knights of Columbus while in Camas.
“When we moved to Colorado, my faith began to slip. I started to feel like I was just going through the motions. So, when I moved off to college, I stopped going in Camas.
“When we moved to Colorado, my faith began to slip. I started to feel like I was just going through the motions. So, when I moved off to college, I stopped going several things until I was eventually asked to no longer pledge to my fraternity. I then came
home for Christmas Mass and realized while others had left my life for not being cool
enough or not meeting their criteria for me, Christ had never left me. I came back the next semester and started getting more involved in my faith. I held an advisory position on School of Mines Catholic’s Council during my sophomore year, as well as living in their men’s Catholic house my junior and senior years.
“Just before my senior year, a FOCUS missionary had a deep encounter with me in which he told me all about his life, including his vulnerabilities … He then continued to encounter me during my senior year through rock climbing. He learned to climb and bought all the gear just to get to know me better!
“While at a SEEK Conference, I saw a missionary advertisement for Vagabond Missions with the tagline, ‘What if you said yes?’ The advertisement shook me to my core, as I had no clue what I wanted to do post-college, which was just four months away. I took this to prayer.
I believe the Lord called me to missionary work with either FOCUS or Vagabond. I was accepted to both, but felt called more to the work FOCUS does on college campuses.”
Molly Schwartz. Molly serves at the University of Idaho. She writes:
“I grew up in the beautiful little town of Ferdinand, Idaho, in an amazing family with five younger siblings. For college, I attend the University of Idaho (Go Vandals!), where I am now honored to serve with the UI FOCUS missionaries as I finish my student teaching. After I graduate this fall, I will be sent to a new campus. Working with the FOCUS team at the University of Idaho has already been an incredible gift, and I am eager to continue to learn and grow with these inspiring evangelists.
“I feel blessed to say that the Catholic faith has always been a part of my story. My parents were intentional about forming me in the faith and taught me early on that being Catholic was not just something to do, but it was a calling of how to live. The community I grew up in was also very Catholic, so I had many opportunities to attend retreats, serve in ministries at my parish, and befriend other young Catholics.
“When I started looking into college, I was drawn to the University of Idaho after having attended a Confirmation retreat at the St. Augustine’s Student Center and meeting Father Chase Hasenoehrl and some college students there. After my first Mass as a college student at St. Augustine’s, a FOCUS missionary reached out and struck up a conversation with me. She invited me to get involved at the center, and later helped me join a Bible study. My Bible study leader was so kind. She made sure all of the women in our study felt loved and cared for. After a few months of getting to know each other, my leader began to mentor me outside of Bible study, teaching me how to grow in a deeper relationship with Christ and how from this relationship that equipped me to share the gospel message with others.
“By the grace of God and with my Bible study leader’s help, I began leading my own Bible study and mentoring other women as well.
“The desire to become a FOCUS missionary was on my heart as early as my freshman year as I got to know the missionaries and saw how authentically Catholic they lived their lives. I had never seen any person my age live so radically for Jesus, yet be so truly fun and joyful at the same time. As I got more involved in FOCUS leadership and in leading other women in the faith as a student, I found myself longing to serve full time. My junior year, one of the missionaries encouraged me to apply to FOCUS. I was overjoyed when I was accepted!”
Emily Ambrosio. Ambrosio is from Mission Viejo, Calif., and graduated last May from San Diego State University with a degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She is serving her first year as a FOCUS missionary at the University of Idaho. She writes:
“As a cradle Catholic, I was raised going to Mass on Sundays and catechesis classes over the years, but it wasn’t until I was Confirmed my sophomore year of high school that I truly began to get involved in my home parish’s youth ministry as a servant leader. I helped plan and lead Confirmation retreats and attended a weekly Bible study. I continued to serve in high school ministry until I transferred from my community college
to SDSU, where I became involved in the Aztec Catholic Newman center and met my first FOCUS missionaries.
“Through having FOCUS missionaries walk with me and share the gospel, forming genuine friendships within the faith community at the Newman center, and going to FOCUS’ student leadership conference in 2019, I encountered Christ in a new and profound way that challenged me to change my life and make Jesus the very center of all that I do.
“After many months of growing in faith and trust in the Lord’s will for my life, I felt Jesus calling me to a greater abundance of life by becoming a FOCUS missionary. Initially, I was too afraid to trust in His will for me. When I was invited to attend a FOCUS retreat called the “Father’s House,” I truly dove into discerning God’s will for my future and surrendered to His call for me to become a Catholic missionary to bring others to Him. I soon became convicted in how His will truly is my greatest good, and that, as terrifying a path as that could be, it would truly satisfy the deep desires of my heart. … It is both a great privilege and a gift to serve the Lord in this apostolate, and I cannot wait to see the wonders that the Lord will work in the lives of the students here at University of Idaho and in my own heart.
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