FOCUS-ing On God's Call
One of the Diocese of Evansville’s young disciples recently accepted God’s call to serve as a missionary. Branson Schroeder, a lifelong member of Resurrection Parish in Evansville and a 2013 graduate of Mater Dei High School, will be a campus missionary at Indiana University this fall with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
Founded in 1998, FOCUS is an organization that places recent college graduates at universities across the nation and abroad for two or more years as campus missionaries. Through one-on-one discipleship, Bible studies, retreats, and other forms of campus outreach, “FOCUS missionaries encounter students in friendship where they are, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence,” the outreach’s website states.
This coming academic year, more than 660 missionaries will serve full-time on 137 campuses. Since its founding, FOCUS has reached out to more than 20,000 college students, sharing the love of Christ and fostering personal relationships with Him that students take with them into their parishes and careers.
Schroeder was a junior at Murray State University when he met his campus’ FOCUS missionaries through a friend. He notes that before his encounter with FOCUS, he did not have a close personal relationship with Christ. Upon joining a FOCUS Bible study, however, Schroeder perceived peace and joy among the members of the group that he knew came from intimacy with Christ. “I could see their genuine joy and fulfillment in what they were doing,” he said.
During his senior year, Schroeder joined 13,000 other young Catholics at the SEEK conference, FOCUS’ weeklong national conference. There, Schroeder witnessed the depth and power of his peers’ faith, and he encountered God in the sacraments in a way that motivated him to follow Christ more intentionally. “When I saw students my age joyfully living out their faith, it really sparked something in me,” he said. “I came back to campus on fire and with a need to share with others (that) I’d never felt before.”
By late February of this year, Schroeder, an exercise science major, had accepted a position in the University of Florida’s physical therapy program. So, when a FOCUS missionary invited him to apply to become a missionary himself, his initial response was negative. Soon, however, “I could start to feel the Lord pull my heart in a different direction than I expected,” he stated.
Shortly thereafter, while participating in a spring break mission trip with his campus missionaries, Schroeder once again experienced the sanctity of his peers, which confirmed his budding desire to share in their way of life. He says of the missionaries, “I was with them and saw what they did their whole day. They were strongly rooted in prayer, they took full advantage of the sacraments, and they were always trying to grow their relationships with Christ. I saw the joy their calling brought them, and it was attractive.”
A week before the deadline, Schroeder decided to apply to become a FOCUS missionary, and he was soon offered a position. “It was a tough decision to go evangelize my peers and fundraise my entire salary, but I knew it was God’s will for me because of the joy He had given me through a relationship with Him, and I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself,” he said.
Having undergone summer training, Schroeder will serve as one of five missionaries at IU in Bloomington, working with the campus priests, student leaders and directly with students to reach young people at all stages of their own spiritual journeys.
Schroeder looks forward to serving IU students, including many from the Diocese of Evansville, walking with them in authentic friendship and sharing his faith-filled witness. He considers himself blessed to have the opportunity to reach out to students who are experiencing the same doubts and struggles that he experienced in his faith journey.
“College is a time when character develops, and students are free to make numerous decisions, decisions that will likely form the landscape of the rest of their lives. We aim to help them invite Jesus into these decisions, and let Him be the compass for the direction of their lives,” Schroeder said. “This is the opportunity to reach college students who are lost and confused like I was.”
If you have questions about the mission of FOCUS or how Branson can serve you as a missionary at Indiana University, feel free to contact him at email@example.com.