Steve Petullo felt alone during his faith journey in college. Then, as an adult, he discovered FOCUS and began guiding graduate students in Bible study. Now he’s giving back.
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.
“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.
“I was very impressed with that conference—especially seeing all of us at Mass and experiencing all the joy that was around,” he says. “I have often told people that one of those conferences is the closest thing to heaven you will experience in this life, because everyone’s happy and you feel surrounded by your family and friends who are in love with God.” Steve has attended every FOCUS national conference since, including SLS20 in January.
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.”
Steve, who helps with RCIA and a high school youth group as a member of Holy Trinity Parish in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has hope for FOCUS’ future and all the ways missionaries can serve souls on college campuses.
“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. FOCUS is well-grounded and very faithful to the Church, and it has been consecrated to Mary.
“My greatest hope for FOCUS is that it will continue its mission to college students and never falter in this mission.”
Find out how you, like Steve Petullo, can make a planned gift to FOCUS by contacting Joseph Shippee at 515-490-3411 or Joseph.Shippee@focus.org.
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