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Outreach on Campus

FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Missionaries at San José State University (SJSU)

Valeria Abrego, Adriana Lazalde, Jacob Barajas, Juan Miguel Balmedina

About FOCUS from Curtis Martin founded the Fellowship of Catholic University Students or FOCUS at Benedictine College in 1998. Since then, FOCUS missionaries have spread the gospel to tens of thousands of college students through on-campus outreach, Bible studies, discipleship, mission trips, national conferences, and more. Today, FOCUS encourages young people to pursue truth and invest in relationships with Jesus Christ and their fellow students. Every year, FOCUS holds a national formation conference, SEEK, in early January, and in 2024, the SJSU Newman Center had a group of 28 attend SEEK24, which included FOCUS missionaries, students, and priests.

FOCUS Missionaries at SJSU provide outreach through the university’s Newman Center under the auspices of the diocese through the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph, guided by Father Ernesto Orci and the priests at the cathedral.  With the approval and blessing of Bishop Cantú, this is the first year that FOCUS is involved in campus ministry at SJSU.


Tell me how long you have been involved in FOCUS and share some of your leadership experience as a missionary.

Valeria: I was first introduced to FOCUS as a college student and attended Bible studies and other events like the annual SEEK conference. This is my first year as a missionary, and I now have the beautiful opportunity to lead Bible studies and accompany college students as they grow in faith, knowing that there is a Catholic faith community supporting them.

Jacob: I have been working as a missionary with FOCUS for five years (during which I have been fundraising to cover my entire salary), and I am currently the Team Director of the San José State University team. My main goal is to help students encounter Christ through leading Bible studies, discipleship, fellowship, prayer, weekly events, etc., and to form my teammates.

Juan Miguel: When I was a college student, I felt isolated, and I wanted nothing more than to be seen. As FOCUS missionaries, we are privileged to have a holy hour and Mass every day. This spiritual practice has really impacted me, and it helps myself and my peers be given direction through the sacraments. I have become bolder in proclaiming my Faith.

Has being a FOCUS missionary impacted or transformed you the most spiritually?

Valeria: As FOCUS missionaries, we spend at least an hour in prayer daily. Prioritizing my prayer life has led me to grow in intimacy with Jesus and expanded my spiritual life, and I believe it has allowed me to better serve those around me.

Adriana: The sacraments have transformed me the most spiritually. Having holy hour, Mass, and a rosary built into our daily schedules has been incredible. New staff trainings and weekly formation have also helped me deepen my faith.

Jacob: I have learned to rely on Jesus even more so in my daily life as He gently detaches me from worldly desires so that I might depend more completely on Him. This understanding and growth have been tremendous gifts in my life, and I love sharing this truth with my teammates and students.

What was your highlight from the recent SEEK ’24 conference in St. Louis, MO?

Valeria: A major highlight for me was witnessing the students from SJSU experience everything from daily Mass with 24,000+ young adults to listening to the profound keynote speakers.

Adriana: SEEK had so many highlights for me; accompanying students and witnessing their transformations stands out the most. We have been walking with these students since the start of the school year, and seeing their growth has been such a gift.

Juan Miguel: The highlight was when our SJSU students encountered Christ during nighttime adoration. To see 20,000 and more people worshiping and seeing how the Lord touched the students I work with was such a joy to my heart.

When have you been/or are you the most inspired in your ministry?

Adriana: Since our SEEK conference, more students have joined us for daily Mass and adoration, and inviting their friends has been incredible to witness. Coming to a first-year FOCUS campus has been a learning curve, figuring out what works and learning about the campus and culture.

Jacob: Working on a team with four missionaries consistently is one of the more formational elements for me. We are all experiencing the vulnerability of knowing and serving the Lord as well as leading and loving each other. Team life has helped me grow as a communicator and in virtue and charity.

Juan Miguel: When I was still in college, I met a FOCUS missionary who changed my life. Before I met them, I was suffering from a deep sense of loneliness. They showed me Christ, and I knew that I was not the only one suffering.

Can you expand on the variety of opportunities, spiritual, social, service-oriented, or otherwise, offered to those considering becoming a FOCUS missionary?

Valeria: I became a FOCUS missionary to walk with college students and ignite a flame for the Catholic faith within their hearts. Little did I know that Jesus would also be pursuing my heart throughout my time on mission!

Jacob: The opportunity to spend dedicated time with the Lord in prayer and in the sacrament of the Eucharist every day (as a part of your job) is undoubtedly the biggest gift. The training that FOCUS provides in theology and evangelization is also something that I am deeply grateful to have received. There are also countless opportunities to grow spiritually, socially, emotionally, professionally, and mentally and you will learn to lead others to Christ through hosting Bible studies, planning creative events, and serving on mission trips. You will live an abundant life!

Juan Miguel: For those considering becoming FOCUS missionaries, contact a missionary! We have a monthly event here at our Newman Center called Revival. It provides fellowship through a dinner and then a talk followed by adoration, confession, praise, and a candlelit Mass.

Where do you see the FOCUS missionaries' place in the global Church? What need do you believe the FOCUS missionaries fill or satisfy pastorally?

Valeria: College is a time when many students experience loneliness and grasp for love. Young adults wrestle with questions surrounding their faith and identity, and we, as missionaries, have the unique opportunity to journey alongside them and lead them to Christ.

Adriana: FOCUS missionaries are out there on the front lines, encountering college students and inviting them into the wonderful adventure that is a life with Christ. Over 1,000 people have vocations to the priesthood and religious life from encountering FOCUS.

Juan Miguel: FOCUS missionaries encounter our Church's future leaders. College is usually a tipping point for most individuals regarding whether to maintain their faith or to lose it altogether. I believe that as an organization, we can spread the good news of salvation that Christ offers in a more personable way to our peers in college.

Valeria Abrego graduated from UCLA with a psychology degree and is a first-year FOCUS missionary serving at San José State University. She grew up in Bakersfield, CA.

Adriana graduated from California State University Northridge with an accounting degree. She enjoys Costco and ice cream.

Jake Barajas is the Team Director with FOCUS at San José State University. He is originally from Indiana, but he and his wife live in Santa Clara. He is pursuing a master's degree in counseling.

Juan Miguel Balmedina grew up in the Philippines for the first 12 years of his life and had a deep encounter with the Lord when he met a FOCUS missionary when he was an undergraduate at Western Washington University.

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