FOCUS New Staff Training: A Day in the Life of a First-Year Missionary
FOCUS new staff training at Ave Maria wraps up this week. For the next month, missionaries will spend time developing mission support teams before reporting to campus for the fall semester. We spent some time talking to Sarah Vielma, a first-year missionary and graduate of Texas State University, about her experience at training this year:
If you weren’t doing FOCUS, what sort of job would you have pursued out of college? -I majored in English and Creative Writing. I always wanted to work for a magazine, but for now, I knew I wanted to be a missionary. Of course, between my interview and when I made the decision, I kept going back and forth about whether or not I really wanted to do this. I’m glad I did.
What do you remember about your first week at training? -The first thing I remember is Mass on the first Sunday morning. Seeing all the people my age at Mass together was crazy. I was really overwhelmed by the number of people in the first few days. I kept thinking things like, ‘Do I have to meet everyone? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not who FOCUS was looking for?’
Can you describe your typical day at Ave Maria? -Well, we wake up early and go to holy hour. Ideally, we eat breakfast before holy hour…but that doesn’t always happen. Then we go to class until about 12:20. After class, all the first-year missionaries pray the Rosary together, and then we have lunch break until 3:00.
What do you do during your lunch break? - I used to do a lot of sleeping. Now I usually spend that time doing fundraising, or keeping up with friendships I’ve begun at training. I try to relax or do something I know I want to do, like call my mom.
What are the afternoons like? -After lunch, we go to class until 4:45, and then we have daily Mass at 5:15. After Mass, the evenings vary. Sometimes we have dinner with our colleges (small groups living in community during training). After dinner, we’re either working on mission partner development, doing group recreation, or we have free time.
Can you tell us a little about the community aspect of training? - I especially loved the idea of colleges. It’s been great intimately getting to know six girls. I don’t feel overwhelmed or as if I have to try to meet everyone at training, because I have that support system in a smaller group. It also helped that I was rooming with my discipler from campus. It was nice to have someone I already considered a true friend who I could go to when training was difficult.
Was FOCUS training what you expected it would be? -I knew training might be a rollercoaster. The highs are higher than I thought they would be, and the lows are not as low as I expected. In just four weeks, I can already see myself growing and changing. I can see Jesus peeking into places He’s never peeked before. I’m sure it’s mostly due to having so much prayer time and such a structured schedule.
Something else I didn’t expect is a sense of urgency in mission. All the speakers are passionate about what they’re talking about – everyone is just so eager. It almost came as a shock, coming from a world that’s not very eager, into this Catholic bubble.
Have there been any challenges you didn’t expect? - Honestly, I have noticed a lot of spiritual warfare. Everything is just right in front of you, whether you’re really happy…and sometimes you’re sad and you just don’t know why. I noticed a lot of that. And now, people are starting to slow down at the end of training. It’s harder to want to get up and go do things. I’ve talked to other first-years and we’re all pretty much ready to get out there on mission.
It’s the last week of training. What are you looking forward to? -I’m ready to put all these things we’ve been talking about into practice. I’ll be serving at Murray State University in Kentucky, which is a new campus for FOCUS. I’m excited to see something built up from the bottom, and I really like my team. I’m looking forward to meeting the people on my campus and to being the face of Jesus and the Church. Hopefully I can show them how relevant He is in their lives, and how good He is.
All FOCUS missionaries have their own profiles at focus.org with more information about how they decided to join FOCUS staff, where they will be serving this year, and ways you can support their work. You can find missionary pages by searching here.