Special to The Texas Catholic
As their friends readied to depart for beaches and other festive locales, one group of students from Southern Methodist University set their sights on a different kind of destination.
Sarah LeBlanc, a missionary with Fellowship of Catholic University Students at SMU, led eight students on a FOCUS Mission trip to Denver March 12-19, where they served Catholic Charities at three homeless shelters. SMU Director and Chaplain Father Wade Bass also participated in the trip.
“Two were women-only shelters and the other was the Samaritan House shelter, which included veterans, families and other single men and women,” said LeBlanc, who is one of four FOCUS missionaries at SMU.
The students were split into three groups and each group remained at the same shelter all week.
“This enabled us to see and spend time with the same women each day,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said the SMU missionaries served two meals each day, built relationships with them over shared meals and fun activities, and spent time cleaning the facility.
“Being filled with the Holy Spirit and receiving the Eucharist each day caused us to be more present to the men and women we served, which allowed for deeper interactions,” LeBlanc said. “I think this was our greatest area of service to them — remembering their name, smiling at them, being excited to see them, wanting to know their story and giving them space to share it.”
Madison Pope, a sophomore at SMU who participated, said serving on mission showed her what complete trust in Jesus looks like.
“The women I encountered had a joy and faith in Jesus that I had never seen, especially considering their situations,” Pope said. “I strive every day to live out the faith they showed me in that week I was with them.”
LeBlanc said students found the trip enlightening and that she believed it helped them grow in their faith and understand their call to serve others.
“I believe that it helped all of us to lean into the present moment and see the gift that the person in front of us is,” LeBlanc said. “Being stripped of comforts caused in our lives a heightened awareness of the dignity of the person we were serving.”
FOCUS is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same. In the Diocese of Dallas, FOCUS has missionaries on the campuses of SMU, University of Texas at Dallas, and University of Dallas. To learn more about FOCUS, visit www.focus.org.