Catholic Campus Ministry at Northern Michigan University (NMU) was recently chosen to host a team of four missionaries beginning 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,” said Father Dustin Larson, associate pastor of 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 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 first child, Leo, 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 Mitchell.
Maria Doherty was born and raised in St. Louis 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 Doherty. “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. Hadjis 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 Father Larson.
BEHIND THE SCENES
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.
Father Larson spent the first two years of his priesthood at St. Albert the Great Parish on the campus of Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton. Father Larson is also a graduate of MTU, earning both undergraduate and masters degrees in computer science before entering seminary. It was at Michigan Tech that Father Larson had the opportunity to work alongside Father Ben Hasse, who also serves as the diocesan director for campus ministry and for vocations. Father Hasse has employed a FOCUS team at MTU since the fall of 2014. Father Larson 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, one of his goals was 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 Doerfler, Father Heikkala, and I sat down to plan this project, we were initially aiming for Fall of 2022. I guess the Holy Spirit had other plans!”
To help get the program off to a good start and position it for long-term impact, Bishop Doerfler approved a matching gift challenge to cover four years of FOCUS missionaries at NMU. Primarily through Legacy of Faith, he has committed $136,000 covering the first two years, with the challenge covering the next two years. Additional fundraising is in the works to perpetually fund FOCUS on campus.
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 Heikkala and Father Larson have already begun asking for donations. 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 Father Larson 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.
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