For more information, contact
Mary Ann Matteson
FOCUS Missionary, St. Peter the Apostle parishioner
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, moved to Illinois when I was 4, then moved to Boerne when I was 10, so a little all over the place!
Q: What was life like for you growing up?
A: It was good! I grew up in a loving environment, with Christian beliefs, although I wasn’t raised in the Catholic faith. Had the normal experiences of childhood, with all of its ups and down and extracurricular activities, and it was where I found my great love of reading as well. Moving was hard the second time for my family, but I think it was necessary in leading my family into the Catholic faith.
Q: Why did you become a missionary?
A: Honestly, it wasn’t something that I had ever thought of until my senior year at Boston University. The Lord really pursued my heart in college through the amazing community I found at the Catholic center on campus. Throughout my discernment process, I realized the great gift of invitation and faith that had been given to me by my peers and the missionaries. I saw this opportunity in front of me to give of myself radically to others, to serve Our Lord in such a beautiful and unique way, and I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do more.
Q: When and how did you receive your call to become a missionary?
A: Invitation is key! One of the missionaries on my campus I’d befriended, named Sarah, grabbed dinner with me before the semester started to hear how my summer went. After spending 20 minutes telling her about my plan to apply for graduate school, she asked if I had thought about applying for staff with FOCUS. I hadn’t thought about it once, and her question totally surprised me! She invited me to pray about applying, which I finally dragged myself to the chapel to do three weeks later. Sitting down to pray, I came to realize that I actually desired this a lot and, even more, how much the Lord wanted to give me that desire.
Q: What attracted you to FOCUS?
A: The missionaries I got to know over the years were some of the best, and really showed me what the organization was about. They were great models of authentic friendship, divine intimacy with Our Lord, and learning to share the joy of Christ with others. Becoming a missionary with FOCUS was attractive because I knew I was not only getting the chance to help others grow in sanctity, but knowing that they were doing everything to help me deepen my own relationship with Christ as well.
Q: What do you like about this lifestyle?
A: So many things! Each campus has at least four missionaries assigned to it, two men and two women. Both years, my teams have been terrific, providing not only much needed community, but friendships to help sharpen each other and our students into saints. I’ve loved getting to know my students and walking with them in faith over the last two years. I could keep going on about our staff training, our national conferences, mission trips… it’s been a blessed time with this apostolate.
Q: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering missionary life?
A: Do not be afraid to say YES! Many common fears arise that people going into full time missionary work have, you are not alone! There is a great tendency to focus on what people perceive to be “losing” instead of seeing more of what there is to gain in radically trusting the Lord. I had so many fears when I first stepped into this life, but God has been so faithful to me! He has provided in more ways than I ever expected, and has helped me trust Him more and more.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
A: I’m not sure if campus life ever has a typical day, although I’m sure office life will! Typically, Mass and an hour of prayer are scheduled into every day with the team, with students invited to join as well. There are also Bible studies, meeting with students for discipleship (one on one faith mentoring), spending time with students at their clubs, hanging around the quad, grabbing a meal… there is a lot of time for what we call “incarnational evangelization,” or simply spending intentional time with students to build friendships. In building good friendships, we build trust that leads to invitations to go deeper in their faith.
Q: What role do you play in FOCUS?
A: I served as a campus missionary for two years, at Ramapo College of New Jersey. I am now moving from field staff to support staff, and will be located at the Support Center in Denver, our national office. My new role will be serving with FOCUS Missions, a division of FOCUS that sends hundreds of college students on foreign and domestic mission trips every year! In being brought out of their comfort zones to serve the poorest of the poor, college students often find Christ in new and beautiful ways. We not only act as Christ to those we encounter, but often come back from these experiences with a changed worldview. I am excited to be helping coordinate, execute, and lead a few of the 145 trips we have this year, going to 50 different countries. If you’re interested in hearing about the five mission trips I’ve already served on, I’d love to chat!
Q: What are your hobbies and interests?
A: I love to read, anything and everything. I’m also a great fan of going to the movies, card games, and people watching. Arts and crafts are fun as well, but usually time consuming because I always turn them into big projects. Recently, I knit a large baby blanket for my old teammate, who is expecting her first child with her husband next month. Pray for them!
Q: Do you ever get lonely? How do /did you discern your Vocation?
A: I don’t think I’ve really felt particularly lonely while being a missionary. If anything, sometimes it’s overwhelming to be around so many people! Your team becomes your family, and there are always students to spend time with as well. I was also very fortunate to be at a campus close to several other FOCUS campuses. It is a great joy to share life with other missionaries, especially at our national conference every year when all of the staff is present! In my experience, discernment is all about prayer, weighing your options, and remembering that the Lord trusts us to make decisions! (Hello, Free Will!) I spent a lot of time in the chapel praying over my decision to join staff and to rejoin staff again, as well as seeking guidance from others. While friends are a great resource, a spiritual director is also key in making big decisions, especially regarding your Vocation!
Q: What is one thing you dream of doing someday?
A: I have a great desire to walk the Camino de Santiago. I’ve had several friends who’ve walked it already, and I’m eager to do it myself one day!
To learn more about FOCUST and Arianna’s ministry:
Missions Specialist, FOCUS Missions
Fellowship of Catholic University Students
c (210) 365-6136
For more information about Vocations: Mary Ann Matteson (210) 241-5511
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is a college ministry organization that takes recently graduate college students and trains them to walk alongside current college students in authentic friendship, helping them to build the hearts, minds, and habits of a disciple of Christ. During the school year, students are invited to begin, or deepen, their relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. This is done through one-on-one mentoring, Catholic Bible studies, mission trips, social events, volunteer work, retreats, and conferences. Many young adults drift away from their faith during the college years, and FOCUS missionaries attempt to reverse that trend on the campuses they staff.
For the last two years, I've been serving as a FOCUS missionary at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Recently, a unique opportunity arose for me to serve at the Support Center in Denver, CO working with FOCUS Missions, a division of FOCUS that sends hundreds of college students every year on domestic and foreign mission trips across the world. Our goal this year is to be able to send around 2500 students, staff, and chaplains on 145 trips to 50 countries. These trips all strive to serve and encounter Christ in the poor, and to provide students a deeper encounter with a Lord that will expand their hearts. Please pray for all those who will be serving and attending these trips! Being a missionary is a voluntary position, and each FOCUS missionary has the unique opportunity to raise 100% of their mission budget every year. Part of the mission of FOCUS is to engage our family, friends and parish communities in the New Evangelization, inviting those outside of the college campus to participate as active members of our ministry through financial support. This means that I need to be funded by a support team of mission partners (individuals, families, etc.) who commit to supporting my mission on a monthly basis. I would be honored if you would consider joining my team with your prayers and financial support. If you would be interested in learning more about the wonderful work of FOCUS, or in becoming a prayer/mission partner, please contact me at (210) 365-6136 or [email protected], or visit my missionary page at focus.org/missionaries/arianna-johnson.