Related News: Father Jay Buhman will lead a Year of Mercy parish mission retreat at St. Wenceslaus Church in Wahoo Oct. 15-16. Father Buhman will preach the weekend Masses and give talks Sunday and Monday 7 to 8 p.m., along with Eucharistic Adoration and confessions. All are encouraged to attend!
Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) - Father Jay Buhman’s first encounter with FOCUS occurred when he was an assistant pastor for three years at the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Little did he know that he would one day be a national chaplain for the organization.
FOCUS, which stands for Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is a missionary organization dedicated to helping college students to know Christ Jesus and to make Him known, Father Buhman said.
To serve Catholic students, FOCUS will often send four missionaries to college campuses, two men and two women. Often, the missionaries are just out of college themselves.
“We strive to help college students enter into a lifelong, personal relationship with Jesus Christ and encourage and help them to evangelize others by inviting them to also experience this personal relationship with our Lord,” Father Buhman said.
Father Buhman has been a national chaplain for FOCUS for a little over a year now, and he will most likely hold the position for two more years before returning to the Diocese of Lincoln. Before working for FOCUS, he was an assistant pastor at different parishes in Lincoln for six years before becoming the pastor at St. Peter and St. Joseph parishes in Bellwood.
When Father Buhman first encountered FOCUS at the University of Nebraska, he said two things happened.
“First, I was amazed at the missionaries themselves. They were inspiring and they encouraged me in my own priestly service,” Father Buhman said. “They were young men and women, in the prime of their life, who were willing to put their career plans on hold in order to commit two years of service to our Lord and to the Church as missionaries.”
The work ethic and joy of the missionaries especially impressed Father Buhman.
“[The missionaries] raised their own salaries, committed to personal prayer for over an hour every day, and continually gave themselves away in order to help our university students to grow in their faith. They made me want to be a better priest,” Father Buhman said.
The second thing that occurred was that Father Buhman became committed to the ideas of divine intimacy, authentic friendship and spiritual multiplication, the hallmarks of what FOCUS is trying to accomplish in the Church.
“I became convinced that as we strive to live the New Evangelization, not only on a college campus, but even in our parishes, these three components would be the model most likely to achieve our goals of claiming souls for Christ and transforming our families and our culture,” Father Buhman said.
While there are other models to transform culture and the family, Father Buhman became convinced that the one used by FOCUS would be most effective. It was this model that inspired his work in the parishes that he served.
Now that he is able to work more closely with FOCUS, Father Buhman is eager to apply what he is learning as a national chaplain in order to better serve the Lincoln Diocese when he returns.
Most often, Father Buhman works out of the FOCUS support center in Denver, where he celebrates Mass, provides spiritual direction and hears confessions while being present to staff at the support center.
Simply put, as a national chaplain for FOCUS, Father Buhman is a spiritual father to FOCUS staff, as well as the missionaries on campuses across the United States.
“My job as a priest and a chaplain to the mission of FOCUS is to be a fatherly presence - to love, support and challenge our staff and missionaries in their work. I’m here to support them by my prayer for them and by providing them with sacramental care and fatherly advice,” Father Buhman said.
The missionaries often have hard jobs and as a spiritual father, Father Buhman is able to give support to the missionaries and let them know that they are loved and cared for.
“Father Buhman’s presence at FOCUS staff training in Ave Maria, Fla. was an undeniable gift,” UNL FOCUS missionary Alex Fontana said. “He exemplified true spiritual fatherhood to all of us missionaries.
“By reminding us of our identities as sons and daughters of God, [Father Buhman] inspired us to communicate this profound truth to our students.”
In fact, Father Buhman’s favorite part of his job is getting to go out and be with the missionaries.
“I love that FOCUS lets me travel and go encounter the missionaries themselves, that’s really a lot of fun,” he said.
Through his travels, Father Buhman has been able to see the huge impact that FOCUS has on those involved.
“The greatest impact I have seen, both in my time at our own Newman Center and in my time as a chaplain for FOCUS, is the willingness of missionaries and students alike to seek the will of God in their life,” Father Buhman said. “Missionaries, and the students with whom they work, are really trying to place their relationship with God at the center of their lives.”
When the FOCUS missionaries and college students are willing to improve their relationship with God, Father Buhman has seen amazing things happen.
“They begin to see what an adventure it is to strive to live the life of a saint,” Father Buhman said, “It is so amazing to see the joy and fullness in their lives when they are transformed by this new perspective. As a priest, I guess this is what I long to see in the life of every person I serve - here or in any place in our diocese.”