UW-Oshkosh campus ministry focuses on forming missionary disciples

By Jaye Alderson | For The Compass | February 21, 2019

Bishop’s Appeals provides funding for Catholic Campus Ministry initiatives

OSHKOSH — The Gospel of Matthew relates the Great Commission from Jesus: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (28:19-20).

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) strives to live out this mission on college and university campuses. It does so by helping students to lead lives of purpose.

Kyle Hanson, left, one of four FOCUS missionaries at UW-Oshkosh, is pictured with Stephen DCamp, a junior music major who is a member of St. Paul Parish in Combined Locks. Fr. Jason Blahnik, director of Catholic Campus Ministry at UW-Oshkosh, said the Bishop’s Appeal provides funding to bring FOCUS missionaries to campus “to sow intentional discipleship with students.” (Michael Cooney | For The Compass)

At the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Newman Center, four full-time FOCUS missionaries are inspiring students to become missionary disciples who will, in turn, encourage more missionary disciples. Their work is supported in part by the Bishop’s Appeal.

“The Bishop’s Appeal provides us with the funds to bring the four FOCUS missionaries to campus to sow intentional discipleship with students,” said Fr. Jason Blahnik, Catholic Campus Ministry director at UW-Oshkosh.

“On the campus, we’re striving to be saints,” said Kyle Hanson of Green Bay, one of the FOCUS missionaries. “Prayer is the foundation of what we do. Working through students’ hearts, we seek to build up missionary disciples. We want to follow the Lord’s example. His lasting impact was through the Twelve Apostles: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.’ It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command, and we want to fulfill his Great Commission.”

One student currently working with Hanson is Stephen DCamp, a junior music major from Oshkosh, who is a member of St. Paul Parish in Combined Locks. He hopes to apply to be a FOCUS missionary and earn a master’s degree in theology.

“When Kyle first asked me to join, he explained what it means to be Catholic,” said DCamp. “I felt like I was living it already. As the year has progressed, I came to realize it’s a lot more and a lot harder. You have to really make a stand for what your faith is and make it a priority. You are purposely saying, ‘I’m going to live it out.’ It’s about getting closer to God and getting as many people as possible involved.”

Hanson got involved with FOCUS after meeting his future wife, Lisa, who was a FOCUS missionary. She encouraged him to look into FOCUS. He did it to please her, but didn’t expect much out of it. “The Lord was tearing down this wall in my heart,” he said. “I felt a lot of peace and joy in considering doing this. Ultimately, it came down to prayer. I thought the Lord was calling me to be a missionary.”

FOCUS missionaries bond with students by developing one-on-one relationships and participating in fun activities as friends, Hanson said. They also teach students to pray with Scripture and lead Bible studies which offer students “the right to be heard.”

“When you come to college from high school, it’s a huge transition,” Hanson said. “They may have developed habits of Christian living, going to Mass and confession. When you go to college, you can lose those habits of Christian living. It’s not that students don’t desire to follow them, but they oftentimes don’t have the network to live a Christian life.

“We seek to change the culture of the campus by reaching out to people who still have the faith in them. We seek to help them to live out the Christian life and teach them how to teach others to live out the Christian life well through the sacraments,” he added.

DCamp said getting to know Hanson has been inspiring. “He’s striving to make me a better version of myself, and I’m striving to do the same thing for him,” he said. “Helping one another grow in virtue is one of the biggest blessings of our friendship.”

According to DCamp, the FOCUS experience has changed him.

“When I first came to college, I was really shy and introverted. (FOCUS) has inspired me. I have a lot more courage and am open about my faith and inviting people to the Newman Center and spending time with me,” he said.

“It’s given me a deeper understanding of the faith and how to get closer to Christ through the Bible, how to pray with Scripture and be held accountable for daily prayer,” DCamp added. “It challenges you in ways you didn’t think you needed. It forces you out of your comfort zone to what God wants to be your comfort zone. I know I’m Catholic and I know what I believe. I’ve seen it changing other people’s lives around me, which has been really beautiful.”

Tammy Danz, Bishop’s Appeal director, said helping people like DCamp and Hanson grow in faith and helping others do the same is one reason the annual Appeal is so important. “As friends and followers of Jesus, we are devoted to fostering households and communities of discipleship through the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church,” she said. “The Bishop’s Appeal is proud to support this important ministry at UWO by helping college students grow in their friendship with Jesus.”

Click here to more about donating to the Bishop’s Appeal.

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