Main Site Navigation
GREENCASTLE—Stroll through the tree-lined streets of DePauw University in Greencastle, and you have more than a 25 percent chance of seeing a Catholic student. According to the university’s Office of Spiritual Life, 27 percent of the roughly 2,250 individuals who make up the student population self-identify as Catholic.
Right now, that is.
“A lot of people stop practicing their faith in college, about 75 percent,” said Father John Hollowell, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle and Annunciation Parish in Brazil, as well as chaplain of DePauw University. He was referring to a study by USA Today published in 2007.
“With two parishes and being chaplain of a prison and a college, there’s just not a lot of time [to spend ministering to Catholic students at DePauw],” he said.
So about a year ago, Father Hollowell approached Matt Faley, director of the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry, about the possibility of bringing a group called Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, to DePauw’s campus.
“I knew of FOCUS from following things online, and had great love for what they were doing,” the priest said. “And I had seen them in action a little bit at IUPUI [Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis],” where the group has been active since 2008.
FOCUS sends young Catholic missionaries to live on campuses, share the Gospel and draw students closer to Christ.
“DePauw is a great fit [for FOCUS] because a lot of [the university’s] students come from Indiana and from around the archdiocese,” said Faley. “It’s one of the best schools we have in the archdiocese as far as forming future leaders. It just made great sense for us to have a [FOCUS] team there to form future leaders of our parishes who will be actively engaging in leadership around [central and southern Indiana].”
The effort to bring FOCUS to DePauw and minister to the university’s students is not one that would be feasible for a parish, said Father Hollowell.
He said the presence of FOCUS at DePauw and IUPUI—and hopefully other campuses in the archdiocese in the future—are possible only through the help of donations to the United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope campaign (UCA).
“[Ministries like FOCUS] appropriately fall to the archdiocese in the sense that certain ministries in the archdiocese can never be funded parish to parish,” Father Hollowell explained. “We need the archdiocese to come in and provide these ministries.
“These students come from all over the archdiocese and all over the world. So the archdiocese comes in and cares for the students at an archdiocesan level and makes that happen in a way no individual parish could sustain.”
Just what is the archdiocese “making happen” by bringing FOCUS to the students of DePauw? Building up lifelong disciples through spiritual multiplication, said DePauw’s FOCUS team leader, Madison Kinast.
“We share life with [the students],” explained the 2012 graduate of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where she witnessed FOCUS in action. “Throw Frisbee with them, eat lunch with them, study with them, work out.
“And through the friendships you form, you get to share Jesus Christ and invite them into a relationship with him, … build them up in their own faith, teach them how to pray, how to live out the faith, frequent the sacraments.
“Then [we] send them to go do the same thing with their friends, not just in college, but to be the leaders of tomorrow. To be the fathers and mothers of children, the CEOs of companies or sitting on the Supreme Court. We’re training up missionary disciples for life.”
If a missionary does this with two people, and each of those two people do the same with two more people, within 33 years 8 billion people would be reached—more than the world’s population, Kinast explained.
The three-person FOCUS missionary team at DePauw University has not even been on the campus for two months, but already Father Hollowell has seen an impact.
“Before, at the [Sunday 8 p.m.] college Mass, people would just walk out of Mass and go home,” he said. “This year [the FOCUS team] has already had dessert after the college Mass, and people stuck around for at least a half hour.”
The team has also started an hour of adoration before the parish’s two daily Masses during the week and before the college Mass on Sunday night.
“The Thursday Mass starts at 7:45 a.m., which was like the middle of the night when I was in college,” said Father Hollowell. “But there’s been a couple [of students] at each of them, and about 10 coming for adoration before the college Mass.
“It’s been awesome for the college, but also for the parish. Seeing young kids live their faith and desire for prayer and adoration—it’s been a positive experience for everyone.”
This win-win combination is just what the archdiocese is hoping for, Faley said.
“What we’re trying to do with FOCUS is to make Jesus very real and relevant on campuses through formed young adults and leaders who will come back and do the same for our parishes,” he said.
Father Hollowell agreed.
“Because of what the archdiocese is providing through the [United Catholic Appeal], these students will all go back to their home parishes instead of having left the faith, as so many do in college. They’ll be connected in the faith, disciples.
“You just can’t put a dollar sign on that.”
(For more information on the United Catholic Appeal, log on to www.archindy.org/uca or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-01415 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1415.) †