Diocesan News

Fellowship Helps Youth Keep Faith in FOCUS

By Maria-Pia Negro Chin

Kimberly Meza, fourth from left, above, a pre-med student at Barnard College, says that FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) provides tools for young adults to grow in faith and share God’s love with others.
Kimberly Meza, fourth from left, above, a pre-med student at Barnard College, says that FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) provides tools for young adults to grow in faith and share God’s love with others.

As many students get ready to start their first year of college, a recent graduate has some advice for them: “Keep the faith going.”

“Stay close to Christ in the sacraments. If you prayed the Rosary (before college), don’t stop … Don’t let go of what you have,” said Jonathan Mangar, 25.

During his first year at New York University, Mangar was looking for a Christian group to join. His school’s Catholic Center on campus provided different options. He became more involved with FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) which had started one of their missions at the university that year.

FOCUS helps to provide an environment where students can share their faith, which includes promoting Bible study, daily prayer, the participation in the sacraments – as well as conferences and mission trips with opportunities to help those in need. This outreach to college students has more than 550 missionaries on 125 campuses in 38 U.S. states and two locations in Austria.

Mangar, who teaches Spanish at Bishop Loughlin M.H.S. in Fort Greene, made lasting friendships through FOCUS.

“The missionaries and other students were very friendly. We would go to Bible studies and Catholic Underground together,” he said referring to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal apostolate that combines eucharistic adoration with music and poetry by Catholic artists. “I was thankful that that was the right friend group for me.”

Interest in Catholic Faith

He sought the group because he was interested in becoming Catholic. Brought up in a Hindu family, Mangar felt a call to conversion since elementary school. After graduating from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in South Ozone Park, he attended to Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood. He was received into the Catholic faith when he was 19 in 2011.

His faith now informs all his decisions and influenced his decision to teach at a Catholic school, be a lector coordinator at catechist at his parish, and be part of the board of directors at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Academy.

“Faith is a tremendous part of my life,” he said.

His college experience helped him learn more about his faith and be able to share it and defend it, he added. He felt a sense of belonging with the group because when he saw peers at college being absorbed by partying and “events that involve the cheapening of the human person,” he wanted something different.

The FOCUS missionaries – typically recent college graduates who dedicate two or more years to reach out to peers on campus – share the hope and joy of the Gospel with college students as a way to revert the trends of secularization. Living Catholic tenants can be seen as counter-cultural, Mangar said. According to the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of the Catholics who leave the faith do so before turning 23.

FOCUS also offer a haven for students who move to different states to study. Kimberly Meza, a pre-med student at Barnard College who used to live in Florida, said that FOCUS provides the tools to grow in faith and to share God’s love with others.

“It also teaches you that to put Christ at the center of your life is something that you can do now – you don’t have to wait until you are older,” she said.

Meza found that being without her family and demanding classwork would sometimes make attending Mass difficult but this left her “having a hole inside.”

It was through the testimony and invitation of a FOCUS missionary that she started studying the Bible. She said she committed to her faith more because she was intrigued by the joy and peace of the missionaries and she wanted that in her life.

Like Mangar, Meza became a student leader and started her own FOCUS Bible study group as a senior student.

Build Each Other Up

“To have others with you who are focused in the faith” can help to “build each other up, put Christ in the center and reach out to others,” Mangar said.

He added that while he found a sense of belonging through FOCUS, other Catholic organizations at university campuses can help students to live their faith in community. This does not mean that everyone in a Catholic group is going to be perfect but they can help each other to grow in virtue.

Mangar added that FOCUS goes beyond the college campus, equip of men and women to be part of society and help others to be missionary disciples in their families, jobs, parishes and communities.

“People who are in a faith journey, no matter where they are in the faith journey. Need each other,” Mangar said.

One thought on “Fellowship Helps Youth Keep Faith in FOCUS

  1. I remember Jonathan when he was a student of mine – very respectful,intelligent, gentle and hard-working. So happy to hear of the wonderful things he has done with his life! I will be sharing his insights with my own son, who will begin looking at colleges very soon. Blessings to him and his family!