By Chris Hoehn
In 1972, when the Diocese of Evansville first assigned a campus minister to what was then Indiana State University of Evansville, the university had an enrollment of fewer than 1,000 students. What a difference the University of Southern Indiana campus is today.
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, more than 11,000 students were enrolled at USI. In fall 2018, students came from 90 Indiana counties; 40 other states; and 70 countries. USI has graduated more than 42,000 students since 1971. And what is more impressive is that approximately 70 percent of USI alumni currently reside in Indiana — those who attend USI tend to make Indiana home for life. And that is especially true in Southwest Indiana — more than 50 percent of current USI students reside in the 12 counties that make up the Diocese of Evansville.
Why do I tell you all these facts about USI and the diocese? Because an exciting development is underway. Bishop Joseph M. Siegel has begun the process of inviting the Fellowship of Catholic University Students to come to USI in the Fall of 2020. FOCUS currently serves on five Indiana college and university campuses. Their mission is, “. . . to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same.” More can be read at their website, www.focus.org.
New college graduates spend an intense summer in training to become FOCUS missionaries on other campuses. At USI, for example, we hope to have four FOCUS missionaries to assist our Catholic Newman Community, to evangelize and encourage our students to remain faith-filled through their college journey. The cost to the diocese for one missionary is $15,000 per year, and we must raise enough to fund four missionaries for two years for a total of $120,000. We know that this outreach serves our campus, but it also serves the larger diocese as many of our students will continue to live and work in our parish communities.
The approach of FOCUS is to win the hearts of college students, building them in the faith and sending them to the world. This ministry is a win-win for our students — and the diocese as a whole — as this ministry has a successful record of transforming the campuses where FOCUS missionaries currently serve, and we are confident in their ability to do the same at USI.
“Currently, FOCUS is serving on 153 different campuses in the United States. Their approach is to encounter God in an intimate relationship through daily prayer, the sacraments and the Scriptures, building genuine friendships, meeting students on a deeper level, and they teach students how to share the gospel — who in turn teach other students how to pass it on . . . .”
In the coming weeks, we will begin to meet with people who have a desire to see the Gospel flourish among the young adults on the USI campus. We know this is a passion for many in our diocese, and we are confident that people will want to be a part of this effort. If you are interested in helping to get FOCUS established within the diocese, please contact Steve Dabrowski (email@example.com) for details on how you can play a part. Above all, please join us in prayer as we take concrete steps to connect young adults to their Catholic Faith at USI so that they may continue to walk with Jesus Christ throughout their lives.
Chris Hoehn serves as Campus Minister at the University of Southern Indiana. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.