Read about benefactors who invite students into a growing relationship with Jesus and the Catholic faith.

Pasquale and Patricia Girolamo

Sending a child to college can make any parent worry. For Pasquale and Patricia Girolamo, watching their daughter Cesca head off to school brought fears of the negative things she might be exposed to—and how those things might affect her faith.

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“She was ready to take on the world—but I knew she didn’t know what was going on out there yet. I was nervous about that,” Patricia says. “FOCUS was like a breath of fresh air and gave us hope.”

When they heard about the ways Cesca was serving with FOCUS, they were very excited. Pasquale and Patricia began supporting Miko Sy, a missionary on Cesca’s campus. Each time they saw a new photo of Miko’s group of students in his newsletters, they noticed the number of students was growing and recognized just how deep his impact was on campus.

“I was proud to be part of that,” Patricia says. “I’d say, ‘Wow, this guy rocks. Look at what he’s doing!'”

Whether by watching Cesca’s own discipleship group meeting in their living room or seeing thousands of faithful Catholics at SEEK2017, Pasquale and Patricia have witnessed how FOCUS has changed lives. And to them, the role they play on behalf of the apostolate is very clear.

“The missionaries—they’re the tip of the spear, and we’re the shaft,” Patricia says. “The tip can’t go anywhere without the shaft, but the shaft’s no good without the tip. The tip’s doing the work. We’re just helping it go forward.”

“With what we’ve been given, it’s giving back some of the blessings,” Pasquale adds. “We were blessed because of our faith, and it was easy to give back.”

Their hope and vision for FOCUS is to see graduates in parishes and in industries all across the country with the foundation that’s taught them how to pray, how to live virtuously and how to evangelize, too.

Melissa Piennett

Many years ago, Melissa Piennett was attending Mass at her parish in Omaha, Nebraska, when she heard a missionary share the vision of FOCUS. Melissa had personally experienced the loss of faith in her young adulthood—a central challenge FOCUS works tirelessly to combat—and believed FOCUS was on to something great. She began to make a modest monthly gift.

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Although she was raised Presbyterian, Melissa journeyed through a stage of atheism beginning in high school. After college, she soon had a house, a horse and some savings—a point where the world says we “should” be happy—but Melissa wasn’t. She decided to head to church, and, through the Scriptures, she began to realize, “This is the truth.”

On a visit to St. Ketari Tekakwitha’s shrine, Melissa met a priest who quickly became a close friend. Father Jim answered her questions about the faith—a life-giving experience similar to the discipleship followed by FOCUS missionaries. As Melissa says, “When you are one on one in a relationship, that is when you can be Christ to another person.”

Indeed, God has used several relationships in Melissa’s life to demonstrate His unending love, including several priests, friends and her late husband, Craig. After attending the SLS18 conference this past January, Melissa was further convinced in the effectiveness of FOCUS’ one-on-one approach.

She returned to Nebraska and immediately began to build faith-filled relationships with other women to bring them to the Lord. Not only did she start living out the model of discipleship, Melissa decided to make a gift in her estate using a will bequest to support FOCUS in the future. Because of benefactors like Melissa, FOCUS will be able to reach the hearts and minds of this generation of young people and others to come. With her gift, Melissa was welcomed into the Lisieux Legacy Society.

We were blessed because of our faith, and it was easy to give back.

—Pasquale and Patricia Girolamo

David and Tish Offutt

David and Laetitia (Tish) Offutt have supported FOCUS since its founding in 1998. As David describes, “I liked the idea of getting to the youth of our country, and Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of FOCUS, was doing so in the right way.” He adds, “The most important area in evangelism is the youth.”

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Indeed, David and Tish each experienced the loss of faith in their young adult years, despite being raised by strong Catholic families. Their conversion back to Catholicism came through an unexpected trial.

In the late ’80s, David and Tish faced a devastating financial loss in their family business and were on the verge of bankruptcy. A friend invited them to dinner—a treat they could not afford at the time—and there they received an invitation to a service at an evangelical church. They attended and sat in the back pew, hoping to make a quick escape at the end. During the service that morning, however, they both felt inspired to recommit themselves to the Lord.

David and Tish soon joined their local Catholic church and were active members. They started hosting an apologetics group called Cookies and Catholicism, where David shared what he had learned in his journey back to the faith. “I attribute leaving the Church to a lack of understanding of the depth of Catholicism and the importance of your faith,” he says.

David and Tish hope that organizations like FOCUS can continue to spread the rich tradition of the Catholic Church. “College students,” Tish notes, “are especially vulnerable. They are at an age that so many young Catholics—just as we did—lose touch.”

To combat loss of faith on college campuses, David and Tish wanted to continue their support of FOCUS for many years to come. This past spring, they decided to make a gift in their estate irrevocable, ensuring its permanency to help fund a cause they care deeply about.

Steve Petullo

 For Steve Petullo, it all began in 1999 with a flyer in the mail. The flyer featured words from young missionaries explaining the concept and goal behind FOCUS, along with a photo of and an endorsement from Archbishop Charles Chaput. Steve was intrigued.

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“FOCUS just seemed like a good idea,” he says.

Steve grew up in a devout Catholic family and was particularly influenced by his mother, who was outspoken in her faith. When Steve went to study mechanical engineering at Purdue University and then aerospace engineering at the University of Texas, he held onto his Catholic roots. But he didn’t have a community of other Catholic students around him with whom he could share that faith.

“I remember feeling very much alone in my faith journey,” Steve says. “I wish FOCUS had been around at that time.”

Steve appreciated the idea of FOCUS after receiving that flyer, but it wasn’t until he met FOCUS missionaries in person that his heart became more invested in the mission. Five years ago, Nick Lee, the team director at George Mason University, asked Steve to lead a Bible study for graduate students. Though he was initially hesitant, Steve accepted.

That led Steve to some of the best days of his life—and important steps in his spiritual life. “During those years, I had the experience of knowing for certain that Jesus asked me to give him my heart. After one of the Bible studies, I went to the chapel to pray, and I felt such tremendous peace and joy. I believe this was a consolation that God gave me.”

While leading a Bible study gave Steve a personal taste of FOCUS’ mission in action, he also encountered the full breadth of the apostolate when he attended his first FOCUS conference, SEEK, in San Antonio in 2017.

Those experiences prompted Steve to continue to support FOCUS in its mission of evangelization. He has also planned a gift of his house to the apostolate in his will. As Steve explains, “I purchased a house in 2014 and never quite felt comfortable as a single guy owning a house. I liked the idea of the house being used for FOCUS in some way.”

“FOCUS trains the missionaries well, and the mission of FOCUS is very needed in the Church,” he says. “Young people need the friendship, enthusiasm and encouragement of strong peers who are in love with Christ and His Church.”

“My greatest hope for FOCUS is that it will continue its mission to college students and never falter in this mission.”

“I remember feeling very much alone in my faith journey. I wish FOCUS had been around at that time.”

—Steve Petullo

John and Barbara Kaisersatt

John described their gift planning as “a little bit of creativity” to support a cause they loved.

John and Barbara Kaisersatt first learned of FOCUS in its early years and have been supporters ever since. They knew from the start: “This is what our Church needs.”

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At that time, John and Barbara’s personal faith journey had been flourishing through their participation in a local Bible study. This experience led them to wonder what the Church could do to reach young people, especially through the small-group Bible study setting they had come to love.

Indeed, each of their sons attended college, searching for something as so many young adults do. “Both of our boys were seekers,” John says. Still, “being only preached to was long out of favor. Young adults want to see and share with their peers to believe and understand truth.”

Barbara and John sensed that FOCUS would be impactful for the Catholic Church, particularly on college campuses and in parishes. In Barbara’s eyes, FOCUS was desperately needed. “We wanted it to succeed,” she says.

The Kaisersatts started looking for creative ways to support FOCUS. They decided to donate a business property, giving a portion of the property as an outright gift and another portion to a charitable remainder trust. Doing so provided an income tax charitable deduction, escape from capital gains tax and extra retirement income from the trust. John describes their gift planning as “a little bit of creativity” to support a cause they loved.

Over the years, John and Barbara have enjoyed attending the FOCUS national conferences, where they are consistently amazed at the reverence and passion they witness in the young people there. They hope FOCUS can continue to grow and reach additional campuses while also expanding into more parishes. “Parishioners are also looking for something—something stimulating from the faith,” John says.

The Kaisersatts have witnessed the acceptance and growth of FOCUS over the last two decades. Just like any organization, “FOCUS will change over time,” John says, “but I am equally excited with FOCUS alumni and the future that FOCUS will have on the faith. It is truly phenomenal.”

John and Barbara Kaisersatt are members of the Lisieux Legacy Society. They funded a charitable remainder trust through sale of a property in 2011. If you’d like to have a conversation about a gift, contact Joseph Shippee at 515-490-3411 or Joseph.Shippee@focus.org.

J. Paul Breitbach and his wife Frances

I grew up in a working-class Catholic family with 15 kids. My dad worked at the packing house, and my mom took in laundry. Every month, though, I remember my mom managed to send a couple of dollars to the foreign missions. Her giving always stuck with me—that there was a need to give back.

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Right out of college, I went into public accounting with Price-Waterhouse and then went to work at Krispy Kreme. I was fortunate enough to accumulate some equity, so when the company went public, I had an increase in financial resources. I began thinking about how these resources were a gift from God; He was telling me to use that gift for His greater honor and glory.

I struggled with deciding how much to leave my family and how much my wife and I would need in our older years. I prayed a lot, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide me in these decisions. I wanted my giving to be meaningful, to go somewhere that’s truly in line with my faith and where it can truly make a difference.

The future of the Church is dependent on young people understanding what it means to be Christian and how their Catholic faith can help sustain them in a very secular world. FOCUS provides this foundation for college students who desperately need to be educated not only in their faith, but in how they can live out that faith in a way that will influence other people.

Society concentrates on educating people to get the right kind of job, not on forming them into the right kind of person. For this reason, I’m very impressed with the FOCUS missionaries. The enthusiasm they have for what they’re doing is contagious, and I believe they inspire a lot of college kids who are searching for more than what the secular world has to offer.

The more I learn about FOCUS and think about the vision behind it, the more I am convinced this is an organization that is going to do a lot of good—not only now, but for years to come. After I’m gone, I’d like to believe I’ll make an impact through what I leave behind in my will. Making a commitment to FOCUS is in line with everything else I believe.

What Can You Do?

Learn how you, too, can make an impact through a gift in your will by visiting focus.pglegacy.org. If you’d like to have a conversation about a gift, contact Joseph Shippee at Joseph.Shippee@focus.org or 515-490-3411.

Brittany Anderson

When Brittany Anderson was navigating Auburn University as a freshman, FOCUS had just arrived on her campus. Though she had grown up keeping her faith and everyday lives separate, her experiences with Bible study, discipleship and friendships within the Catholic community helped her embrace the faith as her own.

After graduation she became a FOCUS missionary, serving both at her alma mater and Florida Gulf Coast University.

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You’ve been waiting for this day. The first day of classes at the college campus where you serve as a FOCUS Missionary.

You notice someone standing alone in the quad and get the sense that you are supposed to approach her.

Nervous, but filled with courage, your introduction turns into a long conversation.

You sense the relief that she feels knowing that someone actually cares about her and that she is not alone.

Little do you know, this is the beginning of an incredible friendship, one in which both of you challenge each other to live in a way that is imitable and for Christ.

When Brittany Anderson was navigating Auburn University as a freshman, FOCUS had just arrived on her campus. Though she had grown up keeping her faith and everyday lives separate, her experiences with Bible study, discipleship and friendships within the Catholic community helped her embrace the faith as her own.

After graduation she became a FOCUS missionary, serving both at her alma mater and Florida Gulf Coast University.

“There was just something I loved so much about being a missionary in the normal, day-to-day activity of campus life,” says Brittany. “I really believed then — and I still believe now — that that is the best way to change the world: to invest in others.”

As a FOCUS alumna and certified financial planner, Brittany is still investing in others today — and continuing to participate in FOCUS as a benefactor. Her experience after graduation helped her realize the importance of mission in prayer, relationships, and business. In fact, one of her business beliefs is mission is the enemy of mediocrity. “When we’re on mission, everything is better,” she explains.

After serving as a missionary and supporting FOCUS missionaries herself for more than a decade, Brittany is more aware than most about what makes FOCUS’ mission unique. “People think they know FOCUS — that it’s an organization that does Bible studies, or conferences, or whatever … FOCUS is an organization that does spiritual multiplication.”

Each missionary invests in several students, growing them into disciple makers: those who know how to invest in others, in the same way that a missionary invested in them, to make other disciple makers. This starts a chain reaction, or spiritual multiplication, of grace-filled conversions.

Of all the charitable causes she supports, she is most passionate about FOCUS’ pursuit of missionary discipleship. “There are a thousand organizations in the Church that make disciples — but FOCUS is trying to make disciple makers,” she says.

Brittany supports FOCUS financially in the present through her Donor Advised Fund. “I funnel all my giving through my Donor Advised Fund because I get an employee match,” she says, and because it is “easier for me financially.” She named FOCUS as a beneficiary of her Donor Advised Fund, which allows her to make a bigger impact for the apostolate down the road.

Brittany desires to leave a legacy that is in line with FOCUS’ mission. What legacy will you leave? Will you give those living in mediocrity a chance to live in a more satisfying way?

J. Paul Breitbach and his wife Frances

I grew up in a working-class Catholic family with 15 kids. My dad worked at the packing house, and my mom took in laundry. Every month, though, I remember my mom managed to send a couple of dollars to the foreign missions. Her giving always stuck with me—that there was a need to give back.

Read more of their story

Right out of college, I went into public accounting with Price-Waterhouse and then went to work at Krispy Kreme. I was fortunate enough to accumulate some equity, so when the company went public, I had an increase in financial resources. I began thinking about how these resources were a gift from God; He was telling me to use that gift for His greater honor and glory.

I struggled with deciding how much to leave my family and how much my wife and I would need in our older years. I prayed a lot, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide me in these decisions. I wanted my giving to be meaningful, to go somewhere that’s truly in line with my faith and where it can truly make a difference.

The future of the Church is dependent on young people understanding what it means to be Christian and how their Catholic faith can help sustain them in a very secular world. FOCUS provides this foundation for college students who desperately need to be educated not only in their faith, but in how they can live out that faith in a way that will influence other people.

Society concentrates on educating people to get the right kind of job, not on forming them into the right kind of person. For this reason, I’m very impressed with the FOCUS missionaries. The enthusiasm they have for what they’re doing is contagious, and I believe they inspire a lot of college kids who are searching for more than what the secular world has to offer.

The more I learn about FOCUS and think about the vision behind it, the more I am convinced this is an organization that is going to do a lot of good—not only now, but for years to come. After I’m gone, I’d like to believe I’ll make an impact through what I leave behind in my will. Making a commitment to FOCUS is in line with everything else I believe.

What Can You Do?

Learn how you, too, can make an impact through a gift in your will by visiting focus.pglegacy.org. If you’d like to have a conversation about a gift, contact Joseph Shippee at Joseph.Shippee@focus.org or 515-490-3411.

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