New Leaders for a New Generation
DALLAS — It’s the Sunday after New Year’s, and the closer we get to midnight, the more college students are filling the Trinity ballroom at the enormous Hilton Anatole hotel here. About 3,000 young people are here ringing in the new year with prayer, fellowship and some intensive learning. And so they pile into the ballroom. On their knees.
Many of them left the room just as the prayer hour was about to start. One only had to peek outside the doors to see where they went: to a long line for Confession (over 1,000 were heard over the five days here). Once they were reconciled with the Lord and reborn in His mercy, they were back in the ballroom, giving thanks to the Lord who gives them new life.
One Harvard student tells me that “relationship” is the one word she’d use to describe the whole gathering. This is the Student Leadership Summit of FOCUS: the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
The summit is somewhat of a boot camp for evangelization. These students are heading back to campuses, where they know there is a need for people who will walk with others on a path to a deeper religious faith. They leave here with a toolbox for doing that. Here they learn and then teach one another concepts for Bible study. They learn to take time and guide discussions that are fruitful and bring people closer to the Word of God and one another.
FOCUS believes that all Christians have an obligation to go out and teach the nations, as the great mandate in the Bible put it. With actual missionaries — college graduates who raise their own salaries through donations — on 113 campuses in 36 states and D.C., which currently include Harvard, Columbia University and Benedictine College in Kansas, FOCUS is well equipped to carry out its mission.
There’s nothing counterfeit here. In what the Catholic Church is calling a jubilee year of mercy, there is a desire to “meet people where they are” and listen to their questions and needs. Pope Francis describes the Church as a “field hospital” and FOCUS is training interns and residents — some of whom are going to become “surgeons” if the growing ranks of priests and women whose vocations are inspired by FOCUS campus mission work is any indication.
“Bring everything to the Lord. Stay focused on the Lord,” Bishop John Quinn of Winona, Minnesota, urged the students, with no pun intended, but highlighting the mission all the same. “Know who you are. Let Jesus work through you in your humility.”
“Don’t be preoccupied with yourselves and things that won’t fulfill the human heart,” Quinn continues. “Keep focused on Jesus.”
Though they look like ordinary 21st-century kids, these students know that they are different, and they respect that many college students are different from them. They also know the joy their faith has brought them and how it has changed them and continues to change them. And so they stay close to God in the sacraments and they serve others out of complete and utter love — even helping peers who have been hostile to them in the past. They want to live an authentic faith that mimics the generosity that God lavishes on those willing to receive Him.
The kindling is being laid here for a creative fire that is going to help warm hearts and impart courage at what is an otherwise fearful time. Fear seems to be abandoned at this summit. There’s something of a revolution of love happening here, a fire the students didn’t start, but that they are going to keep alight and make brighter. At midnight here, the darkness scatters. With these leaders, expect more of it, even when the fire of real faith and hope and love seems most extinguished.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at [email protected].
COPYRIGHT 2016 United Feature Syndicate