Catholic Campus Ministry at Northern Michigan University (NMU) was recently chosen to host a team of four missionaries beginning with the winter semester 2021. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students, better known as FOCUS, serves at 180 different locations throughout the U.S. and the world.
“I am extremely excited because students here at Catholic Campus Ministry are ready to receive the deeper discipleship formation that FOCUS can offer them,” exclaimed Fr. Dustin Larson, Associate Pastor at St. Michael Parish, Marquette and Chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry at NMU.
Answering the Church’s call for a New Evangelization, FOCUS is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith. The organization’s mission is to know Christ Jesus and fulfill His Great Commission. The “win, build, send” model that FOCUS employs effectively launches students into lifelong Catholic mission.
FOCUS missionaries are recent college graduates who make a two-year commitment to return to campus and evangelize their peers. They raise a portion of their own salaries and rely on support from generous benefactors.
MEET THE MISSIONARIES
Alek Mitchell (center) is the team director. He and his wife, Carly, are in their third year of serving with FOCUS. Alek is originally from Montana. He and his wife met as students at Benedictine College in Kansas. They welcomed their baby, Leo, into the family in August. “We are so glad to be bringing FOCUS to NMU and share the Gospel with more people! We know we are blessed to be able to evangelize in the beautiful Upper Peninsula and enjoy all the beauty Marquette has to offer,” said Alek.
Maria Doherty was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and recently graduated from Southeast Missouri State University. She is serving her first year as a FOCUS missionary. “I am so excited to travel to the great North to serve as a FOCUS missionary at NMU,” said Maria. “While in college the Lord captivated my heart with His beauty and continues to transform it daily.”
Samuel Hadjis is from West Virginia and was discerning a religious vocation with the Franciscan Capuchin Friars prior to becoming a FOCUS missionary. This is his first year being a FOCUS missionary. Samuel enjoys being a bridge for others to encounter Christ. “I am very excited to be a missionary at Northern Michigan University and to share in all the many blessings that God has waiting for us,” he said.
Jessica Rutkowski spent the last four years at Ohio University where she studied public relations and marketing. “I am beyond stoked to be joining the Wildcat family and overarching Marquette community at NMU,” she said. “Please storm the heavens with prayers for me and my team as Jesus prepares our hearts to share the Gospel like never before!”
“Four missionaries means greater, deeper, life-changing impact for more NMU students,” said Fr. Dustin.
BEHIND THE SCENES MAKING IT ALL HAPPEN
Behind the scenes, organizing, fundraising and telling the story, are many people with a shared vision to launch the FOCUS experience at Northern Michigan University. It takes a well-functioning team to bring it all together and make it happen.
Father Dustin spent the first two years of his priesthood at St. Albert the Great Parish on the campus of Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton. Fr. Dustin is also a graduate of MTU, earning both undergraduate and masters degrees in computer science before entering seminary. It was here at Michigan Tech that Fr. Dustin had the opportunity to work alongside the pastor, Father Ben Hasse, who also serves as the diocesan director for campus ministry and for vocations. Fr. Ben has employed a FOCUS team at MTU since the fall of 2014. Fr. Dustin acquired first-hand experience with the FOCUS program while serving at St. Albert the Great. Based on his impactful experience, when he received a new priestly assignment at St. Michael in Marquette, he knew he would strive to bring FOCUS to the campus of NMU. Little did he know that the Lord would miraculously provide an opportunity for a team much sooner than expected. “When Bishop John, Father Greg, and I sat down to plan this project, we were initially aiming for Fall of 2022. I guess the Holy Spirit has other plans!”
Most Reverend John F. Doerfler, Bishop of Marquette, is very supportive of expanding the FOCUS program to NMU. When Fr. Dustin consulted with him about the surprise opportunity to possibly host a team beginning in the winter 2021 semester, the bishop responded with “YES, YES, YES! Let’s go for it!” To help get the program off to a good start and position it for long-term impact, Bishop John approved a Matching Gift challenge that effectively pays for the first two years of FOCUS missionaries at NMU. Primarily through the Legacy of Faith Endowment Fund, he has committed $136,000, which is two full years of funding for a team of four FOCUS missionaries at NMU. The cost to host a FOCUS team for one school year is approximately $68,000.
THE LONG TERM PLAN
A long-term funding plan will help to ensure that the FOCUS ministry evolves into an ongoing ministry that continues to bolster evangelization on campus for many years to come. Father Greg Heikkala, pastor of St. Michael Parish, and Fr. Dustin have already begun asking for donations. A Matching Gift Campaign is being planned for the coming months to incentivize generous giving. Growing the Catholic Campus Ministry at NMU Endowment Fund is also part of the long-term plan.
While Catholic Campus Ministry at NMU receives some annual funding from the U.P. Catholic Services Appeal, it is necessary to annually fundraise to maintain a Chaplain, a part-time administrative assistant, and offer dynamic formation programs that draw students in. The Legacy of Faith Endowment Fund provides annual grants, and fundraisers like Miles for Ministry have helped to meet budgeted expenses.
For a tour of the Campus Ministry Center and the ongoing ministry expansion on the second floor of the former Father Marquette Catholic Academy building at St. Michael parish, including the new Our Lady of Good Help chapel, contact Fr. Dustin at email@example.com.
Donations may be directed to “Catholic Campus Ministry at NMU” and sent to 401 W. Kaye Ave., Marquette, MI 49855 or visit nmucatholic.org/donate. Learn more about joining CCM’s “Living Faith Society” and setting up a recurring monthly donation at nmucatholic.org/LFS. Those interested in donating to the CCM – NMU Endowment Fund can visit upcatholicfoundation.org. All gifts are tax deductible.
As the organization’s website declares, “The adventure begins at Catholic Campus Ministry at Northern Michigan University!” Please pray for all involved in this exciting new ministry focus.