Missionary work is FOCUS of St. Mary Church parishioner

Deidre Merrill

Deidre Merrill

A parishioner at St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge will be converting her interest in a Catholic outreach program for college students into a fulltime stint as a collegiate missionary.

Deidre Merrill, a graduate of Maryville College, will begin the new school year as a FOCUS missionary at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, working with three other FOCUS missionaries there.

FOCUS, which is the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has missionaries at 100 colleges across the United States, including at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The mission of FOCUS is to work with college students to strengthen their faith through Bible study, apologetics, liturgy, and social activities.

Ms. Merrill, the daughter of Margaret Merrill, who is coordinator of youth ministry at St. Mary, will begin her mission work at Georgia Tech on Aug. 5. She has spent this summer raising funds for her mission work.

“I went to Maryville College. I didn’t have FOCUS at my school, but the University of Tennessee’s missionaries reached out to Maryville College and some of those students. That changed my life and that’s what brought me to FOCUS,” Ms. Merrill said.

Bishop Richard F. Stika worked with FOCUS to start a UT chapter in the fall of 2012 at St. John XXIII University Parish and Catholic Center, where the organization will begin its third year at UT in August.

Ms. Merrill said she looks forward to arriving at Georgia Tech because she is “passionate” about working with students who she can connect with because she is close in age with them and can relate to their collegiate experiences.

“We very much follow the evangelization method that Christ left – it was very successful. He chose those 12 apostles and he took them for three years and deeply invested in them. So to get those people who we want to invest in, we’ll host events and Bible studies and things like that and then we look for people who are ready to take the next step. We’ll enter into a discipleship with them,” she said.

In the meantime, Ms. Merrill continues to raise funds for her missionary work.

She and the other FOCUS missionaries look for mission partners who will support them financially through monthly donations.

“I have given a two-year commitment – I might go longer – but I have people across the board on my mission team. Some will give $200 per month, others will give $10 per month. Nothing is too high or too low to join my mission team,” she said.

She explained that the way to give to her electronically is by going to www.focus.org and clicking on the green “Give Now” button on the right side. That will take mission partners to a page where the name of a specific missionary like Ms. Merrill is typed. In addition to her support page with biographical information, prospective donors can click on the “Make a Donation” button. Follow this link to go directly to Deidre’s page.

“The reason we raise funds is because it is Scripturally-based. … Christ tells the apostles to take nothing with you, don’t take your belt, or your sackcloth, don’t take anything and have the people along the way take care of you. It’s part of the mission,” she said. “My favorite quotation is ‘Some give by going, others go by giving’ by Mother Teresa. Without both, there is no mission.”

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