American layman Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), was named by Pope Francis to serve along with 13 other consultors as advisors to the members of the Dicastry of Evangelization.
Since FOCUS was founded in 1998, it has grown to have hundreds of full-time student missionaries who serve tens of thousands of college students on campuses around the U.S. and at several overseas locations.
“I’m thrilled to be invited to serve in this capacity and serve the Church in an even broader way,” Martin told CNA Wednesday. He said the dicastery helps serve the pope and other Vatican leaders and is an opportunity “to listen to others and to give feedback and share best practices.”
“I hope to learn the amazing scope that the Church has for evangelization,” he said.
Martin, a father of nine and grandfather of six, lives in Colorado with his wife, Michaelann. He has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of several books on missionary work and discipleship. He previously served as consultor to the Pontifical Council of the New Evangelization under Pope Benedict XVI.
Perspectives and a vote of confidence
As an American on the pontifical council, Martin said he at first saw the New Evangelization as “awakening people from a spiritual coma” to help them practice their faith.
The situation is much different for Catholics elsewhere, he learned. Some areas have many coming to the faith but don’t have any resources to build churches and support the faithful. Others evangelize in hostile situations where the reaction to evangelization can be church burnings or even killings of Christians.
“We need to be praying for the universal needs of the Church, including the very specific ones that we’re being asked to address, on a day-to-day basis,” Martin said.
He saw the appointment to the dicastery as “a vote of confidence” for FOCUS’ work on campuses and in parishes. The role is “much more a reflection of the confidence and efforts of the people I work with, as opposed to me personally,” he said. “We have a great mission of great people; I’m just one.”
How to measure success of evangelization
In Martin’s view, there are some ways to measure the success of evangelization, like weekly Mass attendance, annual collection numbers, and parish growth.
“But I would say it’s actually much more personal than that. Because, really, none of it is about the numbers,” he added. “It’s really about the stories. What has moved me for 25 years is the story of one changed life after another. For that, you need to sit down and talk to people.”
“It’s truly extraordinary to watch people say, ‘Hey, I was living life for myself or stuck in the world. And I had a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ within the Catholic Church and now I’m living for God and I’m living for others and my life is filled with joy.’ That’s the real success,” Martin said.
Lead with Love says Martin
For Martin, friendship is the key first step.
“Even while people disagree with us, we still want to talk with them. My goal is not to get you to become a Christian or get you to become a Catholic. It is to love you where you are. And if in the midst of that, God inspires you to become a Christian, inspires you to join the Church, I’ll help in any way I can. But I love you for who you are, regardless of that.”
“When Catholics lead with love, the polarization that’s so exemplified in much of our culture actually begins to evaporate. Everybody may not agree, but everybody does want to be loved and respected.”
Petroc Willey, Franciscan University professor
Other appointees include Franciscan University’s Petroc Willey, a theology professor at the University.
Willey previously was a consultor for the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. He holds a doctorate in moral philosophy from the University of Liverpool, another doctorate from the Pontifical Lateran University, and an S.T.L. from the Pontifical University at Maynooth, Ireland.
Wiley served for 20 years as the editor of The Sower, a U.K.-based journal for catechetical leaders. He hosted the EWTN catechetical series “Handing on the Faith” and has authored many study texts on philosophy and theology. He and his wife, Katherine, co-authored the book “Become What You Are: The Call and Gift of Marriage.”
About the Pope’s Dicastry for Evangelization
Pope Francis established the Dicastery for Evangelization in the 2022 apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, saying that it “serves the work of evangelization, so that Christ, the light of the nations, may be known and witnessed to by word and deed, and the Church, his mystical Body, may be built up.”