by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Olivia Stear loves opportunities to visit with new people — whether it be at the playground or the coffeehouse in her Lawrence community.
“I’m looking for women I don’t know so I can win them over and share my relationship with Christ with them,” the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center parishioner told a crowd gathered Feb. 15 to recognize, support and learn more about the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and its role in the new evangelization.
As a fellowship missionary alumna who had shared her faith with young people for seven years, Stear has taken the skills she developed with the organization and brought them to life beyond the college campus as a “missionary mom.”
She works to “win, build and send” — winning people over through friendship and sharing her relationship with Jesus, then building them up in the faith, and finally sending them out to teach others to do the same.
“When you’re a FOCUS missionary, you walk out on campus and you realize that this entire campus — that each soul on this campus — is your responsibility,” she told the crowd of 150 at the 6 a.m. “Reach Kansas City” rosary, Mass and breakfast program.
“And now I feel that way about my city — that each person in this town is my responsibility,” she added.
The aim of the morning program, in fact, was to encourage the stretching of the fellowship’s mission from campuses into communities.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann didn’t sugarcoat the state of the world today. From abortion to the legalization of drugs to concerns about religious freedom, today’s culture and society are cluttered with problems.
“And it would be easy, I think, to become dispirited,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you I’m filled with great hope for the future.
“I think there’s something going on underneath this culture and society that the media has not focused on and — pardon the word ‘focus’ — I think it’s a revolution that’s happening quietly amongst a nucleus of young people in this country.
“And that to me is what gives me great hope.”
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students was born in 1998 at Benedictine College in Atchison — under founder and president Curtis Martin’s leadership — and at the time it reached one campus with two missionaries, Benedictine College president Stephen Minnis told the attendees.
This year, more than 350 of the fellowship’s missionaries are active on 74 campuses.
Former Kansas City Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney was charged with a mission when he was asked to speak at the prayer breakfast: to empower the attendees to live out this new evangelization begun by Pope John Paul II and carried on by Pope Benedict XVI, especially in this Year of Faith.
Using the image of a tandem bicycle, he told the audience that his career and relationships, which weren’t really taking off, bloomed when he completely turned his life over to God.
“God, in his fullness, said to me, ‘Mike, all I want from you is to follow me. Get on the back seat. Pedal your heart out and trust,’” he said.
God made him powerful through his power, through the Holy Spirit, he said, and Sweeney urged the attendees to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit.
Archbishop Naumann celebrated the Mass, and concelebrants included Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; Abbot James Albers, OSB, of St. Benedict’s Abbey; Father Sean McCaffery of St. Peter Parish in Kansas City, Mo.;Father Steve Beseau, director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center; Father Mitchel Zimmerman, archdiocesan vocations director; Father Justin Damien Dean, OSB; and Father Brendan Rolling, OSB.
Father Zimmerman served as master of ceremonies for the program, and said the Fellowship of Catholic University Students has responded to the call to present the faith in a modern culture and “not to be afraid to go out and present the Catholic faith with a new ardor.”
Leslie Sear, a University of Kansas graduate who serves as a fellowship missionary at Benedictine College, was inspired to hear her friend Stear talk about how she has taken her fellowship experiences into her parish.
“FOCUS isn’t just your commitment of years on a college campus,” said Sear.
“It’s really taking it into your life — because that’s also where we need it — in the workplace, in our schools, in our parishes, on the streets,” she added.