FOCUS Missionaries Coming to Lehigh University

Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) will send four in-person campus missionaries to Lehigh University, Bethlehem, for the 2023-24 academic year.

The missionaries will work together with Catholic campus chaplain Father Mark Searles to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to students at Lehigh University, which has a large Catholic population.

According to Father Searles, about 200 students regularly attend the 12:10 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. Sunday Masses at Lehigh’s Packer Chapel. On Ash Wednesday, this number rises to nearly 800 students, giving an indication of how many students might be reached by the missionaries.

“We always wanted to bring FOCUS to our Diocese, and Lehigh is one of our biggest, most vibrant campuses to do that with,” Father Searles said.

FOCUS has provided two Digital Outreach missionaries to Lehigh since August, 2022. The Digital Outreach missionaries ran Bible studies and faith-sharing groups via Zoom and visited campus two to three times a semester to build relationships with students through activities like pickle ball and game nights. They will be replaced by the in-person missionaries.

“Having four missionaries in person on the south side of Bethlehem—I think the impact could be exponentially greater. We might hit the numbers we see on Ash Wednesday,” said Father Searles.

Founded in 1998 at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, FOCUS has a presence on 183 campuses in the United States, eight of them in Pennsylvania. Lehigh University is the first campus in the Diocese of Allentown to receive FOCUS missionaries.

Imitating successful Protestant campus ministries, FOCUS relies on small group Bible studies as a steppingstone between purely social activities and attendance at church services.

“Students are looking for a light landing place or entry for their faith. The Bible study is an ‘easy in’ that leads them to a deeper relationship with Christ and getting back to the sacraments,” Father Searles said.

At the end of the 2022-23 academic year, two Lehigh students were baptized and three were confirmed.

Those interested in supporting the Lehigh University Catholic Chaplaincy and helping to make FOCUS a continued presence on campus can make a donation via the following link.

Photo: Father Mark Searles and Lehigh University students attended FOCUS's Seek23 conference in St. Louis.


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