If you were forced to get a tattoo of a quote, what would that quote be?

Right inner bicep: “100%” Left inner bicep: “Real.” Cause I just want to be 100% real, the beloved son that God made me to be, all the time.

My Name is Joshua Fons.

I was born where the earth waves to the rest of the Universe: Michigan! If I had my hand handy, I would point to where my hometown, Ann Arbor, is, but they told me I can’t put a picture of that in here….

What’s your story?

My story is a pretty great one, but only because I don’t have another one to compare it to! Jesus is real, and I have been blessed to know Him since an early age! My story involves a some life-changing moments in High School, 4 years in Seminary, running Track in College, meeting the Pope, hiking in the Alps, and with lots of bathroom breaks in between all the action. It’s a great story; come and ask me about it sometime!

Why did you become a FOCUS Missionary?

Ever since my junior year of high school, I knew I didn’t want to have a typical job when I grew up: I wanted to give me whole life so that others could know Christ! It wasn’t that I couldn’t do a typical job, I just felt that I was meant for more. At first, I thought this meant being a missionary to somewhere like Africa, then for a while I thought this meant becoming a priest, and then during the spring of my senior year of College, a close friend called me up and asked a simple question: have you ever thought about being a FOCUS Missionary? I was really hesitant at first, but I realized that all my excuses not to were all bad ones, and that in fact, the Lord had been preparing me, in a multitude of ways, to do this since that day my junior year of High School. And I thought the pay was great.

Favorite Saint?

St. Thomas Aquinas: we have a lot in common, like being smart, fat, friars from noble families. Okay, maybe just the smart part, but still, he is an incredible dude, my Confirmation Saint, a genius, and a man who understood the intellectual implications of the Incarnation like no other.

Favorite Catholic Book?

Manalive, by G.K. Chesterton: one part autobiography, one part whimsical tale, one part philosophical discourse; allegedly dictated by Chesterton in a single session, it is a truly a masterful tribute to life fully lived. A must read.

Favorite Scripture Verse?

1 John 4:19: “We love because He loved us First.” It’s just straight truth, man.

What was it like to be involved with FOCUS on your own campus?

I wasn’t! We didn’t have FOCUS! So the first Bible study I ever led was as missionary, to most of the NDSU Men’s Basketball team. Definitely not a typical experience, a “trial by fire” some would call it, but the Lord abundantly provides for those He calls.

When you order coffee for yourself, what do you order?What do you love about being Catholic?

To give another shout out to my boy, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic faith makes sense. It takes the most revolutionary, miraculous, universe-altering event of the Incarnation of Jesus, and presents a comprehensive view of how this transforms every single aspect of our lives! And then we can see this lived out by countless saints who have witnessed to us what it really means to be Catholic. It’s pretty flippin’ awesome. M’ I right?

What are good habits for students who are trying to grow in their faith amidst the chaos of college?

Spend most of your time with 5 people that you would be happy to be the average of at the end of this year. If you want to be a better, holier, more awesome man or woman, than spend your time around people who also are striving for that, and then do things together that will help you all grow. You have the ability to choose that in college, maybe for the first time. So do it.

If you had nothing but Saturdays in life, what would you do?

Wake up, Mass/Prayer, coffee and a muffin, go to a farmers market, watch The Office, grill out with the fam and a few friends, and bonfire or movie to end the day!

My Name is Lauren Hopke
I am from Saint Augusta, Minnesota. I grew up on a small hobby farm in Central Minnesota. I have one brother named Grant, he is four years older than me. We were in 4-H together and each of us grew in our love for agriculture from this experience and because of that I studied Agricultural Economics and Animal Science at NDSU in Fargo, ND (Go Bison). In my free time I enjoy photography, drinking coffee, watching The Office, and snacking on either sweet potatoes or bananas!

Why did you become a FOCUS missionary?

I was given the perfect set of tools for a radical Catholic faith but I lacked the personal relationship with Jesus. I came to college looking for my identity. I spent the first semester searching through many of the typical temptations of a college student. Ultimately, an invitation led me to the Newman Center at North Dakota State University. I came to find my identity rooted in Christ through a night of adoration at a large conference my sophomore year. Since, Jesus has transformed my heart and asked me to serve Him as a FOCUS missionary.

Favorite Saint?

Oh my, I can’t just pick one. I have a whole squad! St. Joseph, St. JP II, St. Anne, St. Anthony of Padua, and of course Mary!

Favorite Catholic Book?

Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert.

Favorite Scripture Verse?

“Talitha Koum.” Jesus takes her hand and says, “little girl I say to you arise!” Mark 5:41

What do you love about being Catholic?

Truth, beauty, goodness, the Saints. Oh, the list goes on! I love that the Lord has let us have a personal relationship with Him. Like what, we totally don’t deserve that but wow what a gift! The Eucharist! There is just so much I love about the Body of Christ. The Saints are amazing, they’re regular people but they totally and completely have lived for the Lord. It is great to look to them for hope and assurance that God the Father has called me to these same heights!

What are good habits for students who are trying to grow in their faith amidst the chaos of college?

Planning the week ahead of time helps me to find balance and lower my stress throughout the week! First, I put in the essentials like Mass and prayer. Then I fill the week with the meetings/class or social things. By prioritizing my prayer and Mass each day, these good habits become something I can’t go on without! Another bonus is that I spend less time dwelling on what is going to happen next because I mapped it out earlier. This helps me to be more present with others!

Do you love or hate social media? 

I love it (maybe too much sometimes) but overall, when used in a respectful way, social media can be a great way to show others how the Gospel is truly alive today!

Your favorite band, musician, entertainer?

Ed Sheeran, Judah and the Lion, The Avett Brothers, and Old Dominion are probably some of my current favs.

College is all about habits. Here’s a good one:

Saying 3 Hail Mary’s a day asking for the Blessed Mother’s intercession. Establish a daily prayer life by setting aside 10-15 minutes for prayer every day. Just be silent and have a conversation with God. Find someone who is striving to pray everyday as well and have them hold you accountable. Looking to start praying? I’m happy to help!

My Name is Tim Heyrman
I am from New Berlin, Wisconsin
.  In my family are my parents and my one younger brother Paul.

 I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 5 years where I earned an Accounting degree.

I am excited to be here in Duluth and spend the year with my FOCUS team and the Newman center community while getting to know the Lake Superior area. I am also excited to spread my Green Bay Packer pride this year. UMD is quite a bit smaller than UW-Madison and the entire campus is connected, which is strange.

Why did you become a FOCUS missionary? After I got more involved at the Catholic Center during my senior year at UW-Madison, there have been several different moments that have led me to this point. One very impactful part of my journey to becoming a missionary was going on a FOCUS mission trip to Ecuador in between my fourth and fifth years of college. Being a FOCUS missionary became the next step in my faith journey and I really had a stronger desire to be a missionary than to go and do accounting work after graduation.

This year on campus… I hope to remind and inform students that they were made for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hopefully, students will see that following Jesus Christ is the best way to live one’s life. Students and all people need to know that they made were made for a relationship with God and nothing other than God will satisfy their hearts.

What was it like to be involved with FOCUS on your own campus? 
It was a really good experience. I met the FOCUS missionaries during my fourth year in school and they had a big impact on me.

My Favorite Saints:

St. John Paul II
St. Teresa of Calcutta
St. Padre Pio
St. Maximilian Kolbe
When you order coffee for yourself, what do you order? Black coffee with no room.

Favorite Catholic book? 
Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Philippe

Duluth versus South Dakota. Discuss.

I LOVE Duluth, the students here, and the awesome Newman community! Also, I love South Dakota more than I could tell you but the landscape around UMD is so beautiful, and the lakes here are far Superior than in good ol’ SoDak.

My Name is Traci Kulesa
I am from Aberdeen, SD – but most of me came from Target.

How many people are in your family, and where do you fit in with the kids? A family of four! Tom and Renee are my amazing parents, and my brother Tony is four years older than me. He and his wife Kelsey have an adorable son named Owen and a precious daughter named Elliot.

I attended THEE University of South Dakota (Go Yotes) in Vermillion, SD, with a degree in Communication Studies with a little bit of Philosophy and Speech Pathology mixed in.

When I was little, I wanted to be a singer. A singer. And briefly, a waitress.

Students, I am here for you! I’m always available to talk one-on-one with students about prayer, hipster bands, the deep symbolic meaning in a given Broadway musical or song, go on adventures, and anything The Lord brings into my path! Basically, I’m here to walk with students so we can run to Heaven together.

You should get involved with our Bible Studies because it was one of the best things I did in college. I made some of my closest friends that are still people that I go to when I need help or want to celebrate life. I learned how to pray with and for people, how to be silly and how to be serious. I loved it.

Favorite saints?

Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Saint JPII
Blessed Pier Giorgio, and so many others.
Favorite Catholic book?

Come Be My Light ~ Letters from Saint Teresa of Calcutta to her spiritual directors

Favorite Scripture verse? “You have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” Joshua 24:13

If you were forced to get a tattoo of a quote, what would that quote be? Talitha koum ~ “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” -Jesus

There are some things you should know about me. These things cause me problems: 

When people avoid eye contact
When people do not give driving directions quickly enough before the turn comes
When Daffy Duck and I can’t find Michael Jordan’s special shorts in time for the big game.

When you order coffee for yourself, what do you order? When your mom offers to pay, what do you order? 

Good coffee is good coffee, no matter who’s paying… a vanilla iced cold brew! (Unless it’s February in Duluth… then, ANYTHING served hot!)

My Name is Stephanie Parks
I am from Norfolk, NE. I have a twin sister! (To answer your questions… We’re fraternal, not identical; I’m older by a minute; and no, we don’t read each other’s minds!)

I attended Drake University from 2011-2015 and graduated with a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Secondary Education. I’m licensed to teach middle and high school English and Reading/Literacy Strategies, and to coach! (I also ran track and cross country for Drake… Go (other) Bulldogs!

After going on a mission trip to Africa this summer, I came back very ready to pursue what it means to live fully alive this year! Whether that means waking up early to see the sun rise, trying new activities that I might make a fool of myself doing, or just finding more ways to incorporate laughter and joy into my day, I want to live fully alive, just as Jesus wants!

Why did I become a FOCUS missionary? My life was changed by a number of FOCUS missionaries who served on my college campus. They were some of the first Catholics I had known who lived their faith in a way that was actually attractive and joyful, and the way that they loved and cared for me showed me how Jesus had been trying to love and care for me my whole life. I had never had that witness before, and I want to be that witness for others.

This year on campus… This will be my fourth year as a missionary here at UMD. My first three years I was a full-time missionary, serving as the team director just this last year. This year, I am a part-time missionary on campus reaching out to students and student-athletes in particular. In the other part of my time, I serve as a member of FOCUS’s national Curriculum team, writing, training, and gathering feedback on new resources for Bible study and discipleship on campus.

What was it like to be involved with FOCUS on your own campus?  Our missionaries encouraged us that we could change the world! But they also knew how to have so much fun!  Bible study and one-on-one mentorship were constants that I relied on to know Jesus, and they also had lots of wacky gatherings that helped us over-studious students remember to have fun!

You should get involved with FOCUS. Because during my freshman year of college, I signed up for a FOCUS Bible study my first weekend on campus at student Mass. That semester, I learned so much about the faith that actually mattered to me, and I actually learned to pray and talk to Jesus. Once He became real to me, He began to show me the adventure He had planned for me!

Who were the biggest influences in your spiritual maturity?

My good friend Megan taught me so much about how to walk with the Lord daily. She loved me in so many small ways (I often came home to find her in my house, at my sink, doing my dishes…YES). She taught me how to truly meet others’ physical and spiritual needs and how to truly discern Jesus’ voice at every moment!

What do you love about being Catholic?

I LOVE the universal nature of our faith–I’ve now been to 14 countries, and experiencing the Mass in different languages but still being able to participate and to share the sign of peace with others who don’t speak my language is always a powerful experience. Plus, I’ve learned that Jesus in the Eucharist is the same Jesus everywhere, and how big He his but also how humble He is blows my mind!

Who are you favorite saints?

I’m a big fan of St. Clare of Assisi–when the Lord asked her things, she responded completely wholeheartedly. She lived a life of humility and docility, but instead of that making her weak, it made her a leader and a visionary! I also love St. Therese and her Little Way. Her idea of doing even the smallest chores and tasks as if she was doing them for Jesus is something I try to incorporate into my mission, because it transforms hearts!

Favorite Catholic book?

I’m currently reading Soul of the Apostolate, and even though it’s challenging me on how I’m living my life a lot, I truly love it! Plus, the writing is poetic and profound, and my English-major heart is a big fan of that.

Favorite Scripture verse?
“You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord,
A royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No more shall you be called, “Forsaken,”
Nor your land “Desolate,”
But you shall be called, “My delight is in her. …
As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
So shall your God rejoice in you.”
Isaiah 62: 3-5

If you were forced to get a tattoo of a quote, what would that quote be?

“He rescued me because He delighted in me.” –Psalm 18

What song from church stirs your heart… when you hear it, you just light up inside?

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us!

What are good habits for students who are trying to grow in their faith amidst the chaos of college?

Pray for at least 20 minutes every day. Silently. All at once. Let Jesus look at you and tell you what He sees. This time will allow Jesus to tell you are, instead of the culture and the world telling you something much less than what you are!

Do you love or hate social media? 

I love social media’s ability to connect people who are far away and to share great writing and ideas so that many people can engage with it. I hate its ability to consume so much of our lives and to turn us inward on ourselves.

What slang do you just wish would go away? Suh dude. (I just don’t know how to respond. I’m awkward.)

What are your pet peeves? An unmade bed. Crumbs on the floor that get on your bare feet. Trash left in my car. (I’m sensing a theme about myself here…)

Your favorite band, musician, entertainer? Needtobreathe. Ben Rector. Hamilton (the musical).

When you order coffee for yourself, what do you order? When your mom offers to pay, what do you order? Good coffee is good coffee, no matter who’s paying… a vanilla iced cold brew! (Unless it’s February in Duluth… then, ANYTHING served hot!)

When I was little, I dreamed of growing up to be… A professional dancer or a writer.