Share this story


By Mitchell Palmquist


Emma Smith, a Gonzaga Prep alumna, finds herself far afield as a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary in Minnesota. Her work with FOCUS has taken her to campuses in Pocatello, Idaho, as well as Mankato and now Winona, Minnesota. Her journey with FOCUS started as a student at Washington State University.

“In college, I had a lot of friends that didn’t have a religious background, so it made it more difficult to have a solid Catholic community,” she said. “I was just going to Mass on Sundays at the Newman Center.” During her sophomore year she was invited to go on a retreat, but she had hoped to make the cross country team, which would have kept her from participating. As things turned out, she didn’t make the team, which opened up her time to go on the retreat. While this wasn’t what Smith had hoped for, it appears to have been God’s providence.

After this sophomore year retreat, Smith became involved with the Newman Center, and during her junior year, FOCUS missionaries began serving at WSU for the first time. When asked how she felt about FOCUS coming to campus, she said, “I was in awe of the missionaries when they came.”

After college, Smith had planned to pursue a graduate degree in preparation for a career in law enforcement. But, her journey took a different path. “I had a lot of identity placed in what I wanted to do with law enforcement and I allowed the Lord to direct me in another way,” she said.

After training with FOCUS, she served as a missionary at Idaho State University for one year, moved to serve at the University of Minnesota-Mankato, and now is team leader for the missionaries at the University of St. Mary in Winona, Minnesota.

The decision to follow this path was motivated by her faith, but FOCUS missionaries impacted her journey and her prayer life, Smith said. “My prayer life has definitely developed beyond anything I could have imagined … the frequency of prayer, the commitment and consistency of it, and having good spiritual direction. But I would say throughout these last five or so years, it’s been recognizing in my relationship with the Lord that he wants to come into all these parts of my life—the messy parts, the broken parts and the joys and the victories. He wants all of it.”

Inspired by that faith, her days are now spent discipling others and mentoring them in the faith. That mentorship often starts with approaching people on campus, asking to sit with them at lunch, or involve them in an activity. When students find out the missionaries are not themselves students, it often sparks conversation. “It takes trust in the Lord and courage to be able to go up to someone that you don’t know—maybe you don’t know what their experiences are either—and so just to meet them where they’re at,” Smith said. “Sometimes it does lead to faith conversations, and invitations to things as well. And other times, you are just trying to get to know people, trying to be familiar to people on campus.” When asked if there is one thing she would want to share about Jesus, Smith said, “He keeps his promises when we do not; Jesus is Lord and he is faithful.”

To support Emma Smith in her work as a FOCUS missionary visit: FOCUS.ORG/MISSIONARIES/EMMA-SMITH

Look for more stories of FOCUS missionaries from the diocese at WWW.INLANDCATHOLIC.ORG in July