Student Leadership Summit (SLS16) is a five-day training conference for FOCUS’ top college student leaders across the country. Utilizing dynamic training and revolutionary peer-to-peer learning techniques students gained knowledge, skills and experience in sharing their faith with others.With the support of a grant from Our Sunday Visitor, Newman was able to send 22 students to the 2016 Student Leadership Summit. The Our Sunday Visitor grant provided $7,900 toward the cost of registration for the twenty two Virginia Tech students and was a great blessing providing the financial support to make this “life-changing” opportunity available for students with limited resources. The experience was powerful for the students who were able to attend; a few reflections are listed below.
“SLS16 was life-changing. Never before have I been so encouraged or emboldened to go out and share God’s love with others. The message that everyone who attended was able to take away was simple but poignant: we are called not only to be disciples of Jesus, but to make others disciples as well. Out of three thousand students in attendance, I felt individually and specifically called out by this message. As the conference emphasized, Jesus calls each and every one of us to carry out the Great Commission, His plan of love to spread the Good News over the whole earth. Now trained in prayer, evangelization, and studying God’s word in the Bible, I am ready and excited to follow this mission for the rest of my life.”Sarah Hebert, Freshman
“The student leadership summit brought to light for me the importance of prayer and the great blessing that it is to us from the Lord. I had never been to such a conference before. I had definitely never prayed for five days straight like we did in Dallas. We prayed a lot and it was life changing. I came home from Dallas with a renewed faith and a greater zeal to know the Lord. I was especially encouraged that two guys from my bible study were able to attend SLS. The Lord is working powerfully in them and to think, “God may have worked through me to reach them.” Even though we don’t merit it, the Lord includes us in building his kingdom and after SLS that is what I am so on fire to do.”
Joe Walker, Sophomore
“When I was young, I asked questions which invariably took the form of “why?” As I grew older, however, some of my questions began to take on the form of “how?” For myself, the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit (SLS) is the story of how I answered two such questions. I had heard a great deal about the New Evangelization, and had even been told that I was a part of it. I suppose I knew what that meant in a vague sense, but I really had no idea where to begin. How was I supposed to go about the process of evangelization? SLS answered that question by first showing me the fruits of the New Evangelization, and then equipping me with specific evangelization strategies to go out and spread those seeds. When I knelt at the consecration during Sunday Mass, surrounded by over three thousand other young Catholics, I knew without a doubt that the New Evangelization was working. The other question which was weighing on my heart at SLS was “how do I know that I have properly discerned my vocation?” Through many excellent conversations with priests and brothers at SLS, I slowly realized that discernment never truly ends. We are always seeking to discover and carry out God’s will in our lives. Of course, at a certain point we must simply trust in God and take the first steps down the path we have discerned, but always with the understanding that God may choose to reveal a different course to us. Through the work of FOCUS, I have definitely grown closer to God, and I can’t wait for SEEK in 2017!”
Brooks Ward, Sophomore
If you had the chance to save someone’s life, would you do it? Regardless of the risk? If you would risk yourself to save another’s physical life, why not their spiritual life? These questions sum up the call that I felt at the Student Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX, this past January. I like to think of myself as a pretty caring person, to the point that I would do almost anything to save someone’s life if given the opportunity. So why, then, was I so hesitant to do the same for someone’s soul? As I thought about it more, I became troubled. The spiritual life (arguably being the more important of the two for a person) should be cared for and protected as much as, if not more, than the physical. So, like any aspiring engineer, I analyzed the situation.
Saving a life: greatest reward – the person continues to live, greatest risk – possibly losing my life.
Saving a soul: greatest reward – the person is granted the opportunity for eternal salvation and a personal relationship with their Maker, greatest risk – an awkward conversation or rejection?
Since I didn’t think I would be martyred for inviting someone on my campus to my small group, what was I waiting for? It was clear to me that, when it came to saving someone’s soul, the rewards outweighed the risks by a long shot. If I was willing to save a life, why not a soul? My experience at SLS was the wake-up call I needed. The Great Commission (Mt. 28) makes my mission as a Christian clear; I must evangelize. It’s not only the responsibility of the priests and missionaries, as I had previously convinced myself. Spreading the message of the Gospel should be as important to me as working toward my own salvation. The drive and inspiration I received and witnessed from the speakers and my peers at SLS changed how I view my role in my community. My desire now, with the support of FOCUS on our campus, is that this mission won’t be short-lived or ever forgotten.
Maria Bernero, Junior