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placeholder September 8, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
College Information Guide

John Wojtasek, Caitlin Marmie, Maya Neam, Leanne Tracy and Carlos Garcia comprise the FOCUS missionary team at the University of California at Berkeley.
Courtesy photo

Now there are five: FOCUS returns to Cal

Five missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students are on campus this year as FOCUS begins its second year of ministry at the University of California at Berkeley.

 

FOCUS at Cal
http://teams.focusonline.org/
berkeley/

Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish
http://calnewman.org/

 
The missionaries — three women and two men, ranging in age from 22 to 24 — fanned out, meeting students in coffee shops and as they dash out the door after Mass at Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley. The parish offered a full week of welcome activities for students ranging from rosary to ice cream social to dinner after the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass, which the FOCUS team looked forward to preparing for an estimated five dozen students.

On and near the Berkeley campus, missionaries will lead Bible study groups and meet students individually, sharing their faith.

Leanne Tracy, 24, who is entering her third year with FOCUS, is the team leader. Her previous assignments had been at Colorado State University and the University of Southern California. Tracy was graduated from the University of Kansas.

Returning from last year's team are John Wojtasek, 24, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, and Maya Neam, 24, a Colorado State University graduate.

Newcomers include Carlos Garcia, 22, a Columbia University graduate from New Jersey who was born in Colombia, and Caitlin Marmie, 23, a graduate of the University of Nebraska and fiancée of Wojtasek. They will be married in Nebraska in November, and will spend their first year of married life working together as missionaries.

It's not unusual for married missionaries to serve with FOCUS, Tracy said. They're popular in campuses where the ministry is well established, she said. Especially attractive to college students, she said, are invitations to the homes of missionaries with children. "College students get the opportunity to see what they have," she said, "and know that's what they want. In a culture with all the brokenness of the family, it's a gift."

Wojtasek agreed. In an era when education, particularly in specialized fields, extends well beyond four years, he said, marriage is often thought as, "I'll do that after I get established." Working shoulder-to-shoulder, he and Marmie hope to offer "witness to authentic marriage and family."

All the missionaries hope to build on the groundwork laid last year, when the first team came to Berkeley. They're already experiencing "spiritual multiplication," Wojtasek said. "Many students are going to lead Bible study, not just the four of us," he said. "Students pick it up and run with it."

Neam said last year, "the most beautiful thing was to see growth of students we were working with." Some, she said, "had been terrified to tell anyone they were Catholic." As the year progressed, she said, "They wanted to own their faith and invest in their peers. What we saw was incredible, a gift from the Holy Spirit."

The missionaries' life of outreach is rooted in prayer, Tracy said. Mass, prayer and Adoration are as much a part of their day as meeting students, sharing meals with them and leading Bible study.

Paulist Father Dat Tran, CSP, assistant pastor of Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish serves as their chaplain.

Getting to know students also means engaging in activities with them. Soccer is popular, and Tracy has worked side by side making art with students she befriends.

Missionaries provide their own funding, which works out to about $2,000 a month per person. For Tracy, fundraising is one of her favorite parts of her ministry. Many of her donors — "people I love and care for" — are from her home parish.

"There's a need for all people to live out discipleship," she said. Supporting a missionary's work is one way of doing that.

Garcia, one of the newest missionaries, found strength in Scripture. "Christ tells the apostles to evangelize and live off the generosity of others," he said. Fundraising in a lower-income area, he said, helped him "truly learn the meaning of generosity."

The beneficiary of the "investment of a FOCUS missionary" in his sophomore year at Columbia, Garcia said he felt he was beginning to stray intellectually, from the church, and was invited to Bible study. What developed, he said, "was a friendship I had never seen before."

His "clear call to be a missionary," he said, was backed by his "super supportive parents."

"First comes God," he said. "Then comes everything else."

 
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