Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

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The UGA Catholic Center offers spiritual, service and social opportunities for University of Georgia students. Several recent university grads will take up missionary work.


Catholic Center life spurs UGA graduates to pursue missionary work 

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 4, 2024

ATHENS—Nearly a dozen recent University of Georgia graduates involved in the campus Catholic community are pursing the missionary life.     

Ethan Dawidowicz’s faith led him to a three-year commitment to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. 

Ethan Dawidowicz graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Georgia. He will spend his summer in formation with FOCUS before a more permanent missionary assignment.

He is one of four newly minted graduates to serve the organization. Known as FOCUS, it has a 26-year presence on campuses around the country where its members lead Bible studies, mission trips and other evangelizing programs. More than 250 colleges and universities have FOCUS missionaries.  

“I’ll be living with seven to 10 other guy missionaries, and so I think I’m really excited, looking forward to the fellowship with the other guys because we’ll be eating together, we’ll be praying together and we’ll be co-leading Bible studies together,” he said. “I’m really excited for that brotherhood because I didn’t join a fraternity in college, but I would say these guys are going to be really close to that.”  

Also, three UGA graduates will work with the Ohio-based Damascus ministry and three others will be with Life Teen.   

These young adults come out of the Catholic Center at the Athens university. The center has served students for some 60 years. There are four Masses a weekend during the school year, attracting more than 500 worshippers. 

Center director Father Brian McNavish said the students’ initiative was “to step out into evangelization.” He said their desire to serve is in response to the invitation of the Holy Spirit.  

Many of the students are formed by the three groups—FOCUS, Life Teen and Damascus—and have had good experiences of Christian spirituality and service, he said. They find them easy places to serve and introduce others to the Gospel they have encountered, he said.  

“Our students are very inspiring and have a missionary heart,” he said in an email. “The Holy Spirit is truly at work in this community and in the lives of our young adults.”   

Dawidowicz, 22, graduated with a degree in finance. He has been a parishioner at St. Benedict Church in Johns Creek.  

As a freshman on the Athens campus, he expected to be a Mass-on-Sunday student. But once there, he was drawn into community life by fellow students and chaplains at the Catholic Center.  

Participating in a FOCUS summer project in Wyoming, living in a faith-based community, affirmed his desire to become a missionary.  

This summer, Ethan will live in Lincoln, Nebraska, focusing on spiritual, human and intellectual formation, then fundraise his own salary for five to six weeks before being assigned to another role. Ethan said he expects to be part of the St. John Bosco project, living with other male missionaries and focusing on formation and leadership development.  

Johnny Ede, recent UGA grad, will begin full-time missionary work this fall. He is one of several Catholic Center students pursuing service to others through established ministries.

Johnny Ede was inspired by Life Teen camp missionaries as a high school student, particularly by their “heart of service.”   

Life Teen is one of the largest national youth programs for Catholic teens, serving middle schoolers and high schoolers in the faith.   

Ede will begin full-time missionary work in the fall. He hopes to inspire young people on their spiritual journeys and show them how to live their faith authentically.  

The 23-year-old Ede earned his bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in Spanish. He grew up attending Holy Family Church in Marietta.  

For him, the Catholic Center was a place to explore spiritual life, but also to meet friends, and study. It was a special place and he tried to go out of his way to encourage others to get involved in the community, he said.  

He had spent two previous summers with Life Teen. He weighed whether to enter the military or join the workforce, however he felt a desire to work with young people, so he opted to explore faith as a missionary.  

“There’s a lot of unknowns and perhaps even fears, but I think with the Lord, it changes from bad fears in irrational things to good fears and excitement and anticipation,” he said.  

Three young people will be working with Damascus, a Catholic missionary movement based in Ohio. It began in 2001 and now operates a 400-acre property for its youth programs and its “high-adventure” retreats, according to its website.