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?

Straight espresso. Black gold. A shot of pure glory. The coal miners latte. It is the whiskey of coffee. And just like whiskey, I don’t shoot it, drink it alone, or have more than two in a sitting. I also credit it for defying my genetics and allowing me to grow a beard. Real men drink espresso.  

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 I had any super power, I would choose…

to never have to go to the bathroom. Not sure how it would help me save the world but it’d sure be nice!

My Name is Lauren Hopke

I am from Saint Augusta, Minnesota. I grew up on a small hobby farm in Central Minnesota with chickens, ducks, geese, goats and pigs. My family consists of my mom named Bonnie, my dad named Greg, one brother named Grant, a sister-in-law named Christina and a nephew/Godson named Clayton (He is favorite family member!)

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!

Fun Facts: I only learned how to ride a bike when I was 18 years old. I also was a background person in a music video when I visited Nashville, TN in the 7th grade!

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.

Who is your favorite saint?

Saint Joseph and Saint Michael the Archangel are two of my favs. They keep busy by praying for and protecting me!

What is your favorite Bible verse?

John 5:6 “Do you want to be made well?” Woof, I could pray with that for a year.

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!

What is your favorite Christian song that you just can’t help but sing to?

Known and Loved by Joel Ansett, it. is. incredible.

What is your “go-to” meal?

Peanut Butter on anything. Carrots, graham crackers, oatmeal, a spoon, if desperate – my fingers. Just realizing now, this isn’t an actual meal but reflecting back, I count it as one about 3x per week….

If you had a band, what would your band name be?

Raised and Glazed

Starbucks or Caribou Coffee or Dunkin? Discuss.

Caribou, have the Vanilla Hazelnut blend coffee and there is nothing to discuss 🙂

What was one trend that was cool in high school that is not cool anymore?

Using pre wrap for athletic tape as a headband, I am glad it is out of style – it would always get tangled and hurt so bad to take out! Fashion is pain, amiright?

What are some of your nicknames?

Helga Lou, Lo Hop, Laur

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

Do you trust people that pour milk into their bowl and then they pour their cereal?

I have never thought of this technique, but I think that I trust these people most. I don’t like when I have milk left over after my cereal, and this sounds like a logical way to avoid that problem. Way to find a solution, weirdos. I’m going to continue to pour my cereal first.

My Name is Mikayla Gottwalt

I grew up in Little Falls, MN. My family includes my parents, Bill and Kim, two younger brothers, Colton and Brett, and a younger sister, Victoria! We also have two family pets, a dog named Darby and a cat named Todd. I doubled majored in Physical Education and Public Health Promotions at University of Minnesota Duluth – GO DOGS!!

Fun Facts:

I can’t go into TJMaxx without buying something (usually a running shirt, a canvas, or a mug). I love quilting, which works out great because I accidentally collect t-shirts. I can’t go much more than 2 hours without human interaction. I enjoy playing just about any sport, but curling is currently my favorite.

Why did you become a FOCUS missionary?

FOCUS has impacted me in life changing ways. Throughout my college career, I encountered authentic friendships with people who have called me higher and challenged me to pursue my relationship with Christ. In the past year, I have seen the brokenness in myself and in those around me. Through friendships with FOCUS missionaries, SEEK2019, and a mission trip to Nebraska, I have also encountered Jesus’ unending love for me and His deep desire to make the brokenness beautiful. Because of the magnitude of His deep love, I was struck with the urgency of helping others encounter Jesus so they can wake up from this world and strive for eternity with the Lord. The conviction of that urgency propelled me to respond to the need by saying “yes” to being a missionary. I am SO excited to continue encountering our Lord and to help others encounter Jesus so that one day we all may be with Him forever.

Who is your favorite saint?

  • St. Elizabeth of Hungary
  • St. Rose of Lima
  • St. Gianna
  • St. Theresa of Calcutta
  • St. John Paul II

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

  1. Make time to Pray – There aren’t any excuses left, I’ve used them all. Sorry. Seriously, if you need to start with 3 minutes a day, start with 3 minutes a day and continue to grow from there. Jesus wants to have a relationship with you! Someone recently told me, “If you don’t want to make time to be with God here on earth, why would you want to be with Him for eternity?” We make time for the things that are most important in our lives. Make time for your Heavenly Father.
  2. Find community – Accountability is the best. Find your pals. If you feel alone, you are not alone in feeling that. I know it can be hard or intimidating, or feel like everyone else knows everybody. Be brave and stick your hand out and introduce yourself to people. People want to know you and be your friend! Life is hard. If you surround yourself with people who are also striving for eternity, it makes it a little easier.
  3. Explore the gifts God gave you – Into sports? Great! Into Theater? Nice! Hiking, lifting, cooking, talking, painting, biking, skiing, sewing, designing, inviting people to hang out? Awesome! God has created you with a specific set of interests and talents. Those are some of His gifts to you. Using them to their fullest potential is one of your gifts back to God.

What is one reason you are thankful that you were sent to Duluth?

I love being a Bulldog, I love all of the amazing people that are both on campus and in the Duluth area, and I love Lake Superior.

What is your favorite Christian song that you just can’t help but sing to?

Big fan of Lord of Lords by Hillsong

Where is your “Happy Place”?

My “Happy Place” is anywhere that I can be with family or friends in, on, or next to bodies of water.

What is your “go-to” meal?

My “go-to” meal out is BBQ pulled pork and Sweet Potato Fries with a side of ranch.

What was your dream career as a child?

My dream career as a child was to be a member of the US Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. I wanted the ice time, the team, the Olympics, my amazing fan base behind me, and the accomplishment of pushing myself to achieve being an incredible athlete. I would rollerblade in-between my parents’ vehicles in our garage as if I was coming out of the tunnel and skate around the driveway, jamming with my iPod as if I was warming up for the Gold Medal Game. As for how the dream is going, my skill level never quite made it past warm ups, but I still enjoy playing and skating!

What are some of your nicknames?

Mik, Mikki, Mikkers, Mikker-do, MikkiRose, Mik-kay-kay, Kay

If you had an all-inclusive vacation paid by somebody who is not you, where would you go?

I was thinking Greece. And then I just googled, “most beautiful places in the world”, and now Greece is the definite choice. The beaches, the water, the white buildings, the sunsets…!

My Name is Maria Grygleski

I was born in Boston, moved to California a couple years later, then moved to the western suburbs of Chicago when I was about 7, and I’ve lived there ever since. I’m an only child, and my parents’ names are Michael and Mary. Though I don’t have siblings, I’m very close with my cousins, who I’m grateful to consider as siblings.

I went to Northwestern University (go ‘cats!) and also played soccer there. It’s just north of Chicago right on the shore of Lake Michigan. I majored in communication studies with a business certificate.

Fun Facts:

I love the sunshine!! Being outside and basking in the sun is one of my favorite things. Should I buy a UV lamp for the winter here?

Why did you become a FOCUS missionary?

I became a FOCUS missionary because Jesus was calling me to it and because I have a great desire for all to truly know Him. In college, FOCUS missionaries introduced me to the Person of Jesus, and to the beauty and richness that exists within the Catholic faith. During my later years in college, when I started emerging as a spiritual leader for those around me, I was experiencing fruits and graces that came from saying yes to God, particularly in the midst of challenges. The decision to be a FOCUS missionary was a great leap of faith for me, but ultimately, it was an invitation and an opportunity to be drawn more closely to Jesus through trusting Him in the risk. It has been an amazing adventure so far, and I am eternally grateful to be able to serve God and others through this ministry.

Who is your favorite saint?

Saint John Paul II. I’m so drawn to him for a number of reasons. The biggest one is his fatherhood and his intentionality with that. Whenever he was in the presence of another human being, he saw the interaction as a divine encounter. He saw each person as a unique and individual soul, rather than just seeing numbers in a crowd. This is proof of his deep prayerfulness and intimacy with God. He truly, truly knew Him. I’m also captivated by his ability to go from this deep prayer, to being exuberantly joyful and hilarious in a matter of seconds. He and I are close, and I have a cool story about our friendship (: ask me about it sometime!

What is your favorite Bible verse?

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul” – Psalm 23:1-3

“Abide in me, and I in you” – John 15:4

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” – John 14:27

What do you love about being Catholic?

I love that we get to encounter God so intimately and tangibly through the Sacraments He has given to us, particularly, through the Eucharist and Confession. Jesus comes to physically dwell within us in the Eucharist, and we get to audibly hear, through the words of a priest, that our sins are forgiven. He wants to be so close to us, and His goodness is greater than we can imagine.

What is your favorite Catholic book?

  • Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Phillipe
  • Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard

What is your favorite Christian song that you just can’t help but sing to?

O God Beyond All Praising

Where is your “Happy Place”?

My grandparents’ house. Or outside enjoying the beauty of nature (mountains, beaches). Or anywhere with good company. Home is where I can rest with people I know and love, and people who know and love me.

What is your “go-to” meal?

I love breakfast. Peanut butter banana toast is usually a staple. Or, eggs, potatoes and roasted veggies.

What are your hobbies?

I love working out and being active. I also love playing soccer, so I’m always up for kicking around or a pick-up game! Music brings me a lot of life and I like to sing and play guitar. Oil painting also captivates me. I took a class in college and loved it, so I want to start doing it more often.

What is the one item in your kitchen that you cannot live without?

Peanut butter, hands down. My teammates can testify.