By MaKenzie Copp ’20, English and Writing and Publishing
Over winter break, Saint Joseph’s College student Riccardo Reyes used his time away from campus to take part in a Student Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. During the week of New Years, Riccardo flew to Phoenix for a Leadership Summit organized by the nationwide Catholic outreach program, FOCUS, or the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. The Conference hosted roughly 9,000 college and university students from all over the United States, and centered upon Incarnational Evangelization— spreading Christ’s love and message through one’s relationships with others. Riccardo attended the conference with Assumption College, in Worcester, Massachusets, because it is close to his hometown, where he was over break. Riccardo says that there were familiar faces though, as people from Saint Joe’s and the University of Southern Maine had also attended the Summit as a group based out of USM, which works with FOCUS, and has FOCUS missionaries on campus. Riccardo says that during his time at the Conference there were a number of speakers that talked about the theme of the conference, and that in addition to the speakers, the students had training sessions, “which focused on employing practical tools to evangelize and lead a transformative Bible study”. After the training sessions, students met in small groups, which were split between the men and women, and facilitated conversation based on the training sessions. In between each session there were impact sessions, which were additional conversations about various topics, including “healing, same sex attraction, power of scripture, how to defend the faith, family problems, and so on”.
Riccardo says that in addition to the different learning opportunities offered by the FOCUS organization, there were also social and entertainment events for students to take part in, especially as they got closer to New Year’s. Riccardo said that there were “singers, ventriloquist, L.E.D drummers, and even skateboarding monks!” He also said that famous Canadian contemporary Christian artist, Matt Maher, came and performed for them during a New Year’s celebration. Riccardo says that his experience was extremely transformative, and that he met so many awesome people, witnessed incredible speakers, and that the training sessions were really impactful. Since the conference, Riccardo says that he has “truly developed a heart of radical prayer.”
Riccardo found out about the conference through an advertisement on Instagram, as well as through his vocations officer, who reached out to him about attending— and he is very happy with his decision to do so. Riccardo explained that the most rewarding part of his experience at the Summit was worshipping the Lord during Eucharist adoration, in which the Priest held up the monstrance and proceeded through the isles in the arena. During those times, Riccado said that he was overwhelmed by immense love and joy, explaining that it can be very emotional, especially when witnessing those around you taking up reverent postures and tearing up. For Riccardo, this experience was life changing, and he urges any and all Saint Joe’s students who are interested to go and experience it for themselves. Riccardo also learned a lot about the Fellowship of Christian University Students organization during his trip, and hopes to help bring FOCUS missionaries to our campus.