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Catholic leaders’ summit in US attracts Irish youth annually

By Katie Ascough - 23 November, 2019

Students at FOCUS’ Student Leadership Summit 2018.

Thousands of Catholics have signed up to attend SLS20: You Were Made for Mission presented by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the Phoenix Convention Center 30 December, 2019 – 3 January, 2020. Among them are several groups of Irish youth.

In January this year, Student Leadership Summit’s (SLS) twin conference SEEK was attended in Indianapolis, US, by over 50 Irish youth, several Irish priests and Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore. While SEEK is a larger conference aimed at people with a range of levels of faith and saw 17,000 attendees in January 2019, SLS is a more niche event targeted at those leading in the Catholic Church whether as a missionary, youth worker, Bible study leader or any wider interpretation of Catholic leader.

SLS20 will host college students, missionaries, parishioners, working professionals, clergy and religious, seminarians, diocesan leaders, campus ministry leaders and all Catholics who want to live out the truth of Christ in daily life and learn how to form missionary disciples wherever they are. 

SLS20 will include three tracks for attendees. Students on the Collegiate Track will learn how to go deeper in their relationship with Christ and form missionary disciples at their campus and beyond. For post-college attendees, the Making Missionary Disciples Track will offer inspiration and encouragement for those seeking to help revive their families, parishes, workplaces and communities in the faith and live as true missionary disciples. Campus ministry professionals on the Campus Ministry Track will have the opportunity to be renewed for mission with a full-day, on-site retreat and will also have the chance to network with fellow campus ministry leaders.

“Attending SLS two years ago served as a catalyst for how my husband and I view our role as missionary disciples — more specifically, how we enter into the mission field of parenting our children and in helping them develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Marilee Nordhus, of Wichita, Kansas, who attended SLS18 in Chicago as part of the Making Missionary Disciples Track. “We are forever grateful to FOCUS as they simplified what I used to think was a daunting task. Today’s young people need courageous adults who love Jesus and find strength in Him as we help change culture. Join us in Phoenix! We will be back for more training.”

The premise of SLS20 is to teach teachers to teach and live out the Great Commission. Along with keynote talks and impact sessions on various topics relevant to Catholicism, SLS20 will include training sessions about the basics of missionary discipleship and power sessions where attendees will teach others what they learn in small groups. Bi-lingual sessions will touch on topics of identity, accompaniment and evangelisation in everyday life. Attendees will also have daily opportunities for Mass, adoration, confession, reflection, discernment and fellowship. Entertainment at SLS20 will feature music performances from artists Ike Ndolo, Jeremy Camp, Matt Maher and past “Awaken” contest winners, along with a New Year’s Eve party for all attendees.

Keynote speakers for SLS20 include Fr Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, Sr Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, Sr Bethany Madonna, SV, Fr Michael Schmitz, Fr Agustino Torres, CFR, Helen Alvaré, Curtis A. Martin, Damon Owens, Dr Jonathan Reyes, Dr Edward Sri and Emily Wilson. SLS20 will also invite a full lineup of speakers and teachers for all tracks, including Chika Anyanwu, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, Jason Evert, Stephanie Gray, Dr Scott Hahn, Dr Mary Healy, Edward Herrera, Trent Horn, Fr Joshua Johnson, Fr Sean Kilcawley, Paul J. Kim, Mari Pablo, Dr Scott Powell and Dr Monique Ruberu. More information about speakers can be found online.

To date, FOCUS events have welcomed nearly 80,000 attendees since the inaugural National Conference held in 1999, where 25 students came together to pray, deepen their Catholic faith and learn how to share Christ with others.

FOCUS was founded in 1998 and invites college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelisation, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same. FOCUS has more than 730 missionaries in the field, serving 164 campuses and 8 parishes across the US and Europe. Tens of thousands of students have been involved with FOCUS, who after graduation have the opportunity to move into parish life to continue their missionary work. Among these FOCUS alumni, 867 have made decisions to pursue Catholic religious vocations. By 2022, FOCUS expects to have 75,000 students transitioned into thousands of Catholic parishes. To learn more about FOCUS, visit focus.org.

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