As students at the University of California at Berkeley begin classes, there are four fresh faces on campus on a mission.
"We want to be where the students are," said Darrin Schultz, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and a first-year missionary. Schultz said he is from a town in Nebraska that's so small the closest stoplight was not only 30 miles away, but in the next state.
Cindy O'Boyle is the team's leader. The Montana native and graduate of Carroll College there is in her second year with FOCUS. Last year she served at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She said the goal is not for people to be faithful in college alone, but "we want them to live a lifelong Catholic mission."
After her graduation from college, O'Boyle spent a year in Alaska. "Although I consider my faith the center of my life," she said, "I didn't know how to convey it."
She learned about FOCUS online. "I wanted to learn how to share my faith, how to reach my peers," she said.
In addition to engaging students in conversation, prayer and participating in Mass at Newman, O'Boyle has an additional goal: "I want to build up student leaders, to own their faith on campus."
O'Boyle sums it up: "I want to live a life worth imitating, and invite others into that life. It's more radical than anything else you see at Berkeley."
Maya Neam, a first-year missionary, said she went to church during her days as a student at Colorado State University "but always bolted after."
A FOCUS missionary on her campus invited her to have coffee, and invited her to her home. The result was that "I developed my prayer life," she said. "I have a relationship with God and not just go to church."
She said she felt called to do for others what had been done for her at Colorado State University.
At John Wojtasek's fraternity at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, he grew not just as a brother, but spiritually through Bible study.
"I've always had a missionary spirit," he said. But on a spring break mission in Haiti, in the midst of material poverty, he said Mother Teresa's words about the spiritual poverty of the West came to him.
In FOCUS, he said, "I can serve as a missionary in my own country."
The missionaries, all well-spoken and determined, are ready to meet the challenge of meeting Catholics, as well as defending their faith on the Berkeley campus.
"There is no following Christ at a safe distance," Schultz said. "There's no safe at all. This faith we have … this changes everything."
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