DENVER, Nov. 12, 2020 — How do you get college students excited to grow in faith over summer break? Send them to an adventurous location to work, make money, participate in the sacraments and be challenged through spiritual direction and Bible studies — all while developing profound friendships with other young adult Catholics who are striving to be saints and lead others to the faith.
To prepare students for lifelong Catholic mission, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) seeks to equip students to go out and evangelize the world around them. Though FOCUS missionaries get to serve side by side with college students during the school year, some students do not have the opportunity to devote themselves exclusively to formation. Summer Projects fills this gap with a ten-week program where college students roll up their sleeves and work at a paid summer job by day and receive world-class faith formation from FOCUS at night.
FOCUS Summer Projects started in 2016 with nine students. Since then, the Holy Spirit has worked through the hearts of more than 400 participants, bearing remarkable fruit. Over 90% of participants in the program take concrete steps forward as disciples and evangelists.
To reach more than 500 students in 2021 and triple in size, Summer Projects is expanding beyond its previous Colorado mountain locations to California (specific locations TBD), Michigan (Boyne Mountain, Inn at Bay Harbor, Boyne Highlands) and New York (Huguenot). Summer Projects is also considering several other locations to be announced in December 2020. Most programs will run May 24 – Aug. 10, 2021, but Summer Projects will host at least one location more conducive to quarter system schedules.
Summer Projects entails an
intense yet rewarding schedule. Both before and after the workday, students
spend 30 – 60 minutes each day in silent prayer, usually attend daily Mass with
the chaplain on site and meet weekly with their discipler (a peer mentor). Each
program includes a small group Bible study, a reading plan, a speaker series that
includes two lectures a week and regular spiritual direction. Weekly
recreational activities include white-water rafting, hikes, camping and other
“God did shake me at Summer Projects by presenting me with so many challenges,” said Ivan Mather, who participated in 2019 while a student at the University of Dublin. “He sanctified my work by keeping God in all of the activities of my daily life here, by visiting the Blessed Sacrament, by going to Mass, by getting spiritual direction and all those things that were available to me, all of the time.”
Sarah Wessell is a FOCUS missionary serving at the University of Kansas. She participated in Summer Projects in 2017 while a student at Missouri State University. “I went to Summer Projects because I had been involved in my faith for a couple of years, but I was confused about the Catholic Church, the Catholic faith and what was true. God called me to the program so I could get a lot of clarification on the truth, beauty and goodness of our faith.”
FOCUS contracts with businesses
in need of summer employees and arranges for students to fill those seasonal roles. Students
fundraise around $2,300 to participate, which covers food, lodging and the cost
of the formation program. Once accepted into the program, each student is
assigned a FOCUS missionary to coach them to raise the amount needed by using
effective fundraising strategies honed by FOCUS over the past 20 years.
Students also receive pay from the contracted businesses for their work
throughout the summer.
“Summer Projects is fun, entertaining and enjoyable, but no one should come to the program for any of those reasons,” said FOCUS Formation Manager John Bishop, who oversees the program. “There’s one and only one reason to participate: to become a saint. Many students in this intense and challenging program have experienced radical transformations and return to campus and to their families on fire to live a holier life and share the Gospel with others.”
There is no deadline for applications; the selection process is first come, first served. In past years, spots have filled up quickly. College students are encouraged to apply early. More information, an overview video and the application form are available at focusoncampus.org/summer-projects.
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them into a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are. For the 2020 – 2021 academic year, nearly 800 FOCUS missionaries are serving on 171 campuses and nine parishes across the U.S. and Europe. Tens of thousands of students have been involved with FOCUS, who after graduation have the opportunity to move into parish life to continue their missionary work. An important blessing of a fruitful partnership between the local campus ministry and FOCUS has been the pursuit of religious vocations. Over the past 20 years, 959 people have entered the seminary or a religious house of formation after involvement with FOCUS on college campuses. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. focus.org