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These college students will spend spring break serving others


Courtesy of FOCUS

A young woman serves children in Tanzania through FOCUS Missions.

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/19/23

FOCUS mission trips help college students spend their spring break in a truly thoughtful and meaningful way.

Usually the words “college spring break” conjure up images of all-night parties and beer-soaked escapades. But there are plenty of college students who want to spend their spring break in a much more thoughtful and meaningful way. 

Catholic colleges and organizations around the country offer service trips and immersion opportunities over spring break. One of the best-known of these programs is the annual Missions program through FOCUS.

FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. Their website explains, 

FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them to a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are.  

This school year, 861 FOCUS missionaries are serving at 216 locations: 193 campus locations (including eight international campuses and 10 Digital Outreach campuses) and 23 parish locations. More than 50,000 FOCUS alumni are living and serving in parishes and communities across the country.

The school break Missions trips are an increasingly popular option to take part in the FOCUS mission for a shorter time. 

A young man serves children in Argentina on his FOCUS mission trip.

Since 2004, more than 14,000 college students, chaplains, FOCUS missionaries and alumni have taken part in FOCUS mission trips. This year alone, more than 100 trips will give some 1,800 young people the chance to serve around the world. 

We had the chance to catch up with Amanda Emerson, who serves as a FOCUS missionary at University of Pittsburgh, about her recent trip to Lima, Peru over spring break.

She was part of a group of six FOCUS missionaries, 14 students, and a priest who helped build public staircases near Lima, Peru, so that residents of the local shantytowns could have access up and down the mountain.

She said,

In the smiles and laughs of all the neighbors in the village I was able to see Christ so clearly, and I saw our students just give all of their hearts to becoming friends with the neighbors. Having a face-to-face encounter with poverty is deeply moving for the human heart. Christ meets us in our brokenness, and I think it is so important, especially for college students, to meet the face of Christ in poverty and let that encounter impact their hearts. It has spurred many of our students to have a desire to be a missionary in various capacities, like on campus or even applying for FOCUS staff.

A group of students pray at Mass on their mission trip in Peru.

For each trip, FOCUS partners with a local religious order, apostolate or organization to meet the local community’s greatest need. 

The missions trips take place both within the US and internationally. Some teams serve in Denver, Philadelphia, or Cincinnati, while others travel to the Dominican Republic, Belize and Costa Rica. 

Their work varies, too. Some serve the homeless and renovate community infrastructure, while others teach children or provide patient care services at medical clinics.  

A young woman serves children in Tanzania through FOCUS Missions.

This summer, FOCUS will hold its first ever mission trip for students discerning the priesthood and religious or consecrated life. During this trip to Kolkata, India, the team will serve alongside the Missionaries of Charity, walking in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Calcutta. 

Other specialized trips are planned as well, including medical mission trips, Varsity Catholic Sport Camps and FOCUS Greek trips.

Learn more about these and all the other mission trips at the FOCUS Missions website.

It’s a beautiful thing to see so many young people spending their spring break serving others.

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