The world of high education is a mess – particularly when it comes to the practice of religion. In a recent study this past spring, it was revealed that college freshmen are less religious than ever. The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016, according to data from the CIRP Freshman Survey. Over the same period, the number who attended religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent. These trends provide a snapshot of the current generation of young adults; they also provide a preview of rapid secularization in the U.S. over the next 30 years.
And this is why a college such as Christendom College exists – to provide students with a rigorous Catholic liberal arts education, taught by faithful faculty with a Catholic worldview, in an environment conducive to the practice of the Faith. But not all students are able to attend places such as Christendom, and as a result, they must go to their local secular state schools and pray that they survive the secularism that will engulf them.
But there is hope for these students as well, and it goes by the name of FOCUS, or the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. The mission of FOCUS is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students, including those who were brought up Catholic, and those who may have no religious affiliation. FOCUS was founded in response to the call of the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Many Christendom alumni have served FOCUS as campus missionaries over the past almost 20 years. Some have worked on individual campuses, others have gone to multiple campuses, and two have served as regional directors. Alumnus Andy Day ’06 has served in several key leadership positions at FOCUS since joining in 2006. After beginning as a missionary, Day became a team director, and later, the founding director of the Southeast region for FOCUS in 2008, managing the operations for a team of five directors and 85 staff. Day handled human recourses, client management, training, and more during an eight-year stretch, helping to implement groups of FOCUS missionaries at campuses throughout the Southeast of the United States.
As the new director of philanthropy for all of FOCUS, Day will develop and maintain relationships with individuals and organizations that are key FOCUS partners, and execute strategies that join the philanthropic interests of benefactors with FOCUS’ priorities.
Considering the passion and drive that would lead to such success, it’s not surprising to learn that Day was just as passionate at Christendom during his four years as a student. Majoring in political science and economics, Day showed a commitment to his coursework and to the student body that would be reflected in his later work, serving on the Student Activities Council and as an RA his senior year. His years at Christendom were incredibly formative, and he left the college with the desire to share that experience with other college students — especially those at secular colleges that would not normally encounter the Catholicism that Christendom offers.
“My education at Christendom prepared me to enter into the world as a fully – formed Catholic. The education taught me not what to think, but how to think with a Catholic worldview. The experience outside the classroom equipped me with personal and professional skills for which I will be forever grateful. The personal investment I received from staff and faculty inspired me to not just make a difference, but to leave an impact on our world and our Church by forming new disciples.”
During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, nearly 600 FOCUS missionaries served full-time on 125 college campuses, located across 38 U.S. states and in two pilot locations in Austria, including Auburn University, UCLA, the United States Naval Academy, Harvard, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech.
Thanks to the hard work of Day, and countless other Christendom alumni that have worked for the organization over the years, FOCUS is receiving the funding to keep moving forward in its mission to evangelize to today’s youth, helping them to fix our broken world.