By Chris Hoehn
Special to the Message
Many things changed in our world in 2020, and circumstances at the University of Southern Indiana are no different. COVID-19 has impacted the way we operate, and 2021 has brought an unusual start to the academic year.
We welcomed FOCUS missionaries to campus for the first time this academic year. FOCUS is an acronym for Fellowship of Catholic University Students. FOCUS missionaries are recent college graduates who serve on college campuses to enhance the college experience through bible studies, retreats and introducing students to the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ.
These young missionaries work with our existing Catholic campus ministry to engage peer-to-peer outreach. Focus Founder Curtis Martin said, “For more than 20 years FOCUS has been striving to help others know Jesus Christ and fulfill His Great Commission through the model we call ‘Win-Build-Send’.”
Martin describes this process as:
- Win: FOCUS missionaries encourage students in authentic friendship, helping them embrace a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Build: FOCUS missionaries accompany students into a deeper knowledge and practice of their Catholic faith.
- Send: FOCUS missionaries guide and encourage students to take up the mantle of leadership, sharing their faith with others, teaching them to share their faith.
Four missionaries are serving at the University of Southern Indiana, and each has written a short introduction for readers of The Message:
Megan St. Aubin: I am originally from Minneota, Minnesota. I graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in psychology. I definitely did not enter college planning to be a FOCUS missionary, but the Lord persistently pursued my heart through encounters with the missionaries and the life they invited me into. There is nothing quite like having a front-row seat to the work the Lord is doing in the lives of others. Last year, I served up at Michigan Technological University. I am excited to be at the University of Southern Indiana to lead in my second year. God's grace is sufficient!
Natalia Draghicchio: I'm from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in Spanish. Since becoming a missionary, I've been continuing to learn more about our Catholic faith through the different formation FOCUS has us do, but also from everyone that I work with. I decided to become a missionary because I first experienced Christ's love in my own life, and now I deeply desire for students to truly know Him on a personal level so they too can experience this immense love and freedom that He offers each of them in Himself and through His Church.
Thomas Horlander: I’m from the Indianapolis area. After several years of struggling with the feeling of total loneliness and internal emptiness, I joined a bible study. That study and the relationships that followed showed me how God can fill up the emptiness I was experiencing and that, despite my failings, the Father still loves me totally and completely to heal my wounds. I joined FOCUS because I felt the call to be someone who can bring God to others on a college campus through bible studies and deeply personal relationships.
Dillon Pariseau: I am Dillon Pariseau (pronounced Paris-oh), and I am the newest FOCUS missionary at USI! My hometown is Farmington, Minnesota; and as the name would imply, I grew up on a farm. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with an undergraduate degree in kinesiology and psychology, and I got my Master’s in teaching at Minnesota State University in Mankato. My call to FOCUS was a very long and drawn-out process, beginning with a major conversion to Christianity and, ultimately, the Catholic Church, in college. I discerned a call to priesthood, which my now-fiancé ended, and was called into FOCUS. My conversions happened because faithful men chose to share God’s love with me, and I am beyond excited to help bring God’s love in this way to the students at USI!
COVID has changed the way we are working together on campus, but our students are meeting in-person and virtually throughout the academic year; and we continue to offer Mass, weekly Confession and Adoration, as well as weekly meetings. In addition, the work that our FOCUS missionaries are doing includes leading bible studies, discipleship and encouraging those students who are able to attend daily Mass with them. As the academic year continues, we are looking for more ways to come together safely to continue to make a difference in the lives of our students. Please keep us in prayer as we pursue this adventure.
Chris Hoehn serves as the campus minister at USI.