Both Jule Coppa and I are originally from the Philadelphia area and are proud graduates of Temple University. After graduating, Jule went to serve as a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary in sunny California while I was sent to New York to serve in the city that never sleeps.
During our time with FOCUS, Jule and I have had the pleasure of watching FOCUS grow to nearly 700 missionaries on 153 campuses. We were thrilled to learn that two of the 19 new expansion campuses were opening in the city so dear to our hearts.
Both of us joyfully returned to the city we call home to continue to be part of the New Evangelization by each leading a team of four full-time FOCUS missionaries on our respective campuses. I’m serving as the Team Director (TD) at the University of Pennsylvania and Jule is the TD at Drexel University.
Patrick Travers, SCV, the Newman Director and a brother with the Catholic religious order Sodalitium Christianae Vitae that is staffing the Newman Center, helped facilitate the expansion of both campuses.
“The SCV brothers have been working with FOCUS for more than 12 years in the Archdiocese of Denver,” Travers said. “Since our time here at the Newman Center, both FOCUS and the Newman ministry have been looking for ways to bring teams to the campuses of Penn and Drexel. FOCUS reached out to Father Carlos Keen, SCV, (the chaplain of St. Agatha-St. James Parish and Newman Center) to explore ways to bring missionaries on to our apostolic team.
“Throughout the process, we have visited numerous other campuses to see what experiences other ministries have had and how the best working relationships have been. Lastly, over the summer, together with Michael Gokie, SCV, the campus minister at Drexel, we went to the FOCUS training in Florida to learn some best practices in looking to establish a healthy relationship.”
Our job as FOCUS missionaries is to be the hands and feet of the Newman ministry, going to every corner of campus to engage students. Our hope is to develop an authentic friendship with the students on campus by sharing life with them: We play sports, do homework, see movies, go to museums, try new restaurants or anything else they’d like to share with us.
We also invite them to become a greater part of the campus ministry by welcoming them to Newman dinners, Open Mic Night, game nights and other fun events the ministry puts on.
As our friendship grows, we hope to inspire students to live out a relationship with Jesus through the gift of the church. We do this by leading small-group Bible studies, where students can continue to grow in friendship with each other, learn to pray and encounter Scripture. We also invite them into the rich spiritual community we have at the Newman Center by bringing them to retreats, the sacraments and prayer.
As students become more involved, we encourage them to be partners with us in the new evangelization — to lead Bible studies themselves and bring their friends into the Newman community where they too can grow in their relationships with Christ.
Both Jule and I have felt so warmly welcomed by the staff and students into an already vibrant community, and we are thrilled to see Jesus already using the teams to bear even more fruit on campus. In addition to the already existing Newman small groups from both campuses, the FOCUS teams have added 15 new Bible studies made up of 83 students — and we pray Jesus will continue adding more each day.
We also are excited to have 24 people registered for our SEEK2019 conference this January. Last year, two students attended the FOCUS conference with another campus, and when they came back, they started leading their own Bible studies with friends for the Penn-Drexel Newman Community.
One of those students is now a student leader for the Newman Center and “on fire” to share his faith with his fellow football teammates and classmates. We can’t wait to see what Jesus will do now that there are 17 attending with two full-time teams of missionaries to help them.
There are about 26,000 students, faculty and staff between both schools, but only 700 attend Mass. We pray Jesus will continue to help us bridge that gap.
“So far, we couldn’t be happier,” said Travers. “We felt like the soil had been prepared the past few years and that bringing FOCUS missionaries in at this point would yield a lot of fruit. And in the first few months, we can already feel the difference. There is a new energy to the ministry, and we’ve rapidly increased the number of students in small groups this fall. I think the students also are enthusiastic to grow in their own faith lives and in sharing the Gospel with others.”
Jule and I both feel so blessed to have the opportunity to serve the Penn-Drexel students. It has been a joyful and fruitful year so far, and we trust Jesus will continue to use our teams and the Newman community to draw more students to Him.
Please reach out to either of us if you would like to learn more or meet our students on a tour of the Newman Center. We would love to meet you and share this community with you!
Sarah Judge, team director at the University of Pennsylvania, may be reached at email@example.com.
Julianna Coppa, team director at Drexel University, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.