Father Mike Schmitz: Live for Jesus
Father Mike Schmitz was a keynote speaker at the 2016 Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus) Leadership Summit in Dallas in January. He is the director of youth and young-adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., and the chaplain for the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Minnesota. Father Schmitz spoke with the Register at the biannual event and explained how it serves college campuses throughout the country. He also discussed Focus’ general impact on the Catholic Church.
What resonates with attendees and why?
The commitment to prayer is what I believe permeates every single thing that Focus does. That’s a really big gift. Also, though, when it comes to how to evangelize, share the Gospel, present the message of Christianity and lead Bible studies, this event is oriented towards their using these tools. In the afternoon session, they present what they learned in the morning to their small groups. We learn much better when we have to teach what we just learned. The idea is not just “I went to a class, I went to a talk, and it was great. I took some notes, and I went home.” It is: “I went to the talk with the idea that I have to share this with someone this afternoon. Then next week, I will be back on campus and will try to use this with the people that I know in my life.” They are not simply here to learn, but they’re here to really be a disciple, which means to be on mission.
What kind of impact do you hope your presentation on evangelization will have?
To see oneself as an apostle of Jesus or an evangelizer for Christ is normative for any Catholic Christian. Anyone who says, “I’m a Christian,” should also say, “That means I’m an evangelizer or I’m someone who is on mission.”
Pope Paul VI said, “The test of one’s faith is one’s willingness to share it with others.” … If I don’t want to share it with others, I actually don’t have a degree of faith. That’s just the reality.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI said in Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), “Mission, or evangelization, is the very heart of the Church. It is the identity of the Church.” Therefore, we are the Church. If we’re not evangelizing, then we’re not really the Church. We’re only the Church when we’re on mission.
If there is one thing that you want these students to take with them, what would it be?
To see their lives as the lives of a missionary. That it’s ordinary, normative — and that to say that I’m Catholic means that I’m a missionary or ambassador for Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean it’s something I do only on Sunday, but it’s something I do every single day.
I have a number of friends who were missionaries at different times in their lives with different Christian groups. They realized that there are missionaries who experience a lot of discouragement when they got to the mission field because their training was about getting ready for the mission field, getting ready to go out, and getting ready to share the Gospel. When they got there, they realized it was just like life. And the answer is, yes, exactly. Being a missionary, you live your life, but you live it for Jesus, and you live it loving other people in an authentic way. So every Christian, and every Catholic, called to be a missionary is called to love Jesus and to say, “Yes” to his will, but to truly love the people in an authentic way. That is what it is to be a missionary. This isn’t something unusual or abnormal. It’s not something that is for an exclusive few. It is for me if I want to be a follower of Christ.
writes from Texas.
Bailey Brazier photo.