Well one week of FOCUS 'NST' is in the books and what a week it was. FOCUS requires all 1st and 2nd year missionaries to attend 'New Staff Training' during the summer. During this time we receive formation, education, and best of all sacraments daily! I just want to share about this last week.
It's important to point out that there are over 200 FOCUS staff at training (probably closer to 300). Isn't that great/nuts!!! But such a blessing. St. John's Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign is nice enough to host us for our 5 week training. Each morning we begin in front of the Blessed Sacrament and there are also usually 4 priests hearing confession during this time.
After prayer 1st and 2nd year missionaries often go their separate ways, but sometimes we'll be together. When we're separated each group will have about 4 fifty minute classes throughout the day. Calling them classes really doesn't do the justice. During these classes we receive instruction on prayer, the life of Jesus, Scriptural Catholic apologetics, virtues, and the apostolate of FOCUS to name a few. Not to mention that the instruction we receive is given by some of the best Catholic priests, authors, speakers, and scholars in the country....if not the world.
One of the highlights of the past week is the bonding that has taken place. Here we are thrown into a dorm with young adults from across the country and within days we become best of friends. This is something that I think may sound odd to our culture, this sort of bonding, but it's beautiful. Just to be a part of this organization is a blessing. To be with so many people that have the same passion and zeal for souls, and the amount of love for Mary and above all Jesus is incredible and so encouraging.
A great thing that FOCUS does during our time at training is the time built into our schedule for the men to be with the men and women to be with the women. Which I also think our culture would find odd. We are housed in 'colleges' groups of men and women (men with men and women with women). The colleges are named after saints and the men and women that make up a college strive to live out the virtue that their saint displayed while they were on earth. Last year I was in the college of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (picture) and I developed a deep devotion to him this last year. The time we've spent together as men has been especially encouraging and fun. Every Tuesday night we play soccer games against other colleges which leads up to a tournament during the 5th week of training.
Thursday night the 1st year staff found out what campus they will be serving for the next year. I don't think there were people more excited, happy, thankful, and anxious/scared anywhere else in the world that night. Several people ended that night in the Chapel.
It is such an honor to serve the Lord through FOCUS. The men and women of FOCUS are doing incredible things on college campuses across the country and I am thankful to be a part of it.
Everything above is great, but none of it matters without a strong, committed, and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. And if a missionary comes to training without that relationship, they've got 4 more weeks to work on it. Because Jesus will be. Tonight I was reminded of this in prayer when I came across 1 Corinthians 3:5-23, especially 5-9 and 21-23.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.