Nearly 9,000 Catholics gathered for the Student Leadership Summit 2020, hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students Dec. 30, 2019-Jan. 3, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. The SLS20 conference, titled “You Were Made for Mission,” included students from Eastern Washington University in Cheney and Washington State University in Pullman, as well as parishioners and pastors from several parishes in our diocese.
“Your peers are looking for the fulfillment of their desires,” said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, during his homily at a Mass during SLS20. “Often, they seek them in the things of the world, but these never satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. It is your task as disciples and missionaries to show them the Way, mediating the encounter with Jesus — the Way, Truth, and Life. It is not easy, particularly as the world becomes more hostile to the life of Christian faith. Do not lose courage: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome the light.”
The conference offered different tracks. Many of the college students and college chaplains attended the tracks for students and campus ministry. Of special interest to attendees from the parishes in Spokane was the Making Missionary Disciples track. According to FOCUS, “The Making Missionary Disciples track offered advice to help evangelize families, parishes, workplaces and communities.” As FOCUS has begun collaborating with parishes in the Spokane Diocese to explore how the missionary discipleship models of FOCUS can be applied here, the hope is that the lessons learned at SLS20 will be fruitful in our parishes.
Joshua Wanner, a graduate of EWU, told the Inland Catholic about his experience of SLS20 as a first-year missionary at Ft. Hays State University in Kansas. Sharing that the Gospel with others on campus has been powerful, Joshua said, “Seeing people whose lives have been relatively unchanged for 18 or 19 years, stuck in their sins, stuck in their habits, and then after hearing the Gospel and seeing the complete transformation of their lives — it is one of the most galvanizing parts of missionary work.”
When asked about his hope for fellow missionaries, student attendees, and attendees from the parishes as they return home from SLS20, Joshua said, “Being in the Northwest, I hope it solidifies the need to reach out. We may not have a Ph.D. in theology, but we have Christ, we have our faith and others who are willing to support us, to give us the courage to step out of our comfort zone and share the faith.”