From Benedictine to the World: Archbishop on FOCUS

In 1998, it was a conference given for a handful of students from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. In 2021, it was given for hundreds at the college and tens of thousands nationwide. FOCUS — the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — held its SEEK conference this winter , and Archbishop Joseph Naumann joined students at Benedictine to attend.
His words in The Leaven about the event follow, along with remarks from earlier.

Consider how in 1998 FOCUS reached 25 college students with its first conference and now, not even 25 years later and in the midst of a pandemic, they were able to touch the hearts of more than 25,000.

According to my math, that is a return of a thousandfold.

On Thursday evening, Feb. 4, the first night of SEEK, I was at Benedictine College joining with almost 200 Benedictine students participating in the opening night of this amazing event.

The featured in-person speaker was Dr. Edward (Ted) Sri.

Benedictine College is the birthplace of FOCUS. In 1998, the original FOCUS missionaries (recent college graduates) began their evangelizing efforts in Atchison, to help college students develop or deepen their relationship with Jesus and fall in love with his bride, the church.

The first FOCUS conference, a forerunner to what became SEEK, occurred at Lake Perry with 25 student participants.

Dr. Sri, a faculty member at Benedictine College at the time, was instrumental in bringing FOCUS to Benedictine. He now serves as the director of formation for FOCUS missionaries. Dr. Sri gave a very inspiring and insightful presentation. At one point, he mentioned the temptation to think that we can achieve sanctity by human effort and willpower.

Dr. Sri referred to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who counseled a young novice, frustrated by her lack of progress in her pursuit of holiness, not to strive to ascend the mountain of sanctity by her own determination and willpower. Instead, St. Thérèse advised the young nun to allow Jesus to encounter her in her own lowliness and poverty.

What FOCUS is doing is on the cutting edge of the new evangelization. The model they use, we’re trying to install that model in our parishes. It’s the method Jesus himself used.

I see a tremendous desire for the Lord, a great yearning. It’s impressive to see this many young adults on fire with the faith. Many students fall away in college. What’s beautiful here, is you see a lot of young adults who’ve found their faith in college.

What FOCUS is achieving on college campuses with the conversion and discipling of young adults provides a model on how to implement the New Evangelization in parishes and dioceses


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.