WSU’s St. Paul University Parish missionaries evangelizing young adults

FOCUS missionaries at St. Paul University Parish with Fr. Drew Hoffman are, front row, from left, Anne Martens (holding baby Isabel), Emily Sweat, Peyton Edwards, and Brooke Schulte; back row, from left, are Conner Martens, Aaron Fater, and Tyler Weber. (Advance photo)

The Newman Center at Wichita State University is named after the greatest Christian evangelist who ever lived, apart from Jesus Christ.

Thirteen young adults from the Diocese of Wichita are following in St. Paul’s footsteps on campuses throughout the United States.

It started when the St. Paul University Parish at Wichita State University welcomed Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionaries several years Ago. The center currently hosts four missionaries.

FOCUS spreads the Gospel

FOCUS, according to its website, “is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose 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.”

Many of the students who have been evangelized by FOCUS missionaries have been inspired to embrace the vision of the Diocese of Wichita’s Pastoral Plan “to become fully alive as missionary disciples.”

Fr. Drew Hoffman, pastor of the WSU parish, said the 13 young adults originally from the diocese are serving as FOCUS missionaries as close as Wichita State and the University of Kansas and as far as the University of Washington in Seattle.

FOCUS has long history in Wichita

Young adults from the diocese have been serving as missionaries for a long time, Fr. Hoffman said.

“We get stuck in the negativity regarding the current state of the church and young people. There are obviously some serious problems that we’re dealing with, but I think there’s some hope being sent forth from the Diocese of Wichita.”

Fr. Hoffman, who served for two years as a chaplain at Kansas State University, said the missionary spirit has been growing on college campuses because of personal experience and how it has improved the student’s life. As a result, he said, “There is a desire and a need to share it with someone else. In addition, people are finding how fulfilling and energizing that is.”

Missionary spirit growing

There is a growth in the number of young adults who not only want to practice their faith, he said, but who want to take the next step and share it.

“I think people are experiencing the fact that they can’t hold the faith to themselves. Not only is that not satisfying, deep down, but we see a breakdown in church structures, in church life, that evangelization has always been kind of at the heart of church life. To recapture that, I think, has been a passionate experience.”

Missionaries are a sign of a healthy community, Fr. Hoffman said, recalling how the Diocese of Wichita was blessed for decades by Irish priests and religious sisters who braved the Atlantic to evangelize on the Plains.