|Quinn Cowan, right, and his fiancée Emily O’Neal, are planning to become FOCUS missionaries after graduating from the University of Tennessee and getting married. As FOCUS missionaries, they will work in college campus ministry.
Quinn Cowan and Emily O’Neal are about to go through many major life transitions in the coming months. They’re graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, getting married, and becoming missionaries for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
The organization, known by the acronym FOCUS, is active on 100 college campuses across the United States, including the University of Tennessee, the University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University. College graduates serve as missionaries on college campuses to help students grow in their Catholic faith during what is often a spiritually turbulent time in their lives.
All missionaries serve a minimum of two years, are sent to different campuses, and are required to raise their own salaries. Cowan and O’Neal are currently asking for financial support from anyone who is willing to help.
“Emily and I have been trying to get as much fundraising done as possible before the school year is out because we have a big summer ahead of us,” said Cowan, a parishioner at St. Henry Church in Nashville and a graduate of Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School. “We graduate from UT in May, go to FOCUS training and find out our placement in June at Ave Maria University in Florida, get married in July, and move into our placement city in August.”
Many people have already offered financial support to the couple. “Emily and I prefer to meet our sponsors face to face if it’s possible so we can get to know them,” Cowan said. “We’ve had a huge outpouring of support from our families, our friends, and our classmates. We’ve had many fundraising events in Nashville. Recently, we met a few people at a fish fry this past Lent who agreed to help us out.”
FOCUS supplements Catholic ministries on campuses and gets to know students on a deeper level through Bible studies and one-on-one friendships. Cowan and O’Neal, who grew up in Hendersonville, were actively involved in FOCUS during their college years and say that their faith helped them grow in their relationship with each other.
“Junior year is when we both started really getting involved in FOCUS,” Cowan said. “We had been to some of their programming before, but really committed to it junior year. When I first arrived on campus, I met two missionaries who became very close friends of mine: Jake and Dominic. These two are pretty much living saints and really mentored me and inspired me to grow in my faith. They were the ones who encouraged me to step up and become a leader.
“Emily had a similar experience to me, getting to know other young Catholic women through FOCUS and eventually becoming a leader herself,” Cowan added. “These past two years, Emily and I have led Bible studies and mentored other students.”
As a convert recently received into the Catholic Church, O’Neal’s newfound passion for Catholicism helped inspire the couple to grow in their faith and take the plunge into full-time missionary work after graduation.
“Emily converted to Catholicism during our time at UT,” Cowan said. “She belonged to the Church of Christ denomination when we started dating freshman year. As we got to know each other and talked about our differing religious backgrounds, it forced both of us to grow in our faith and question why we believe what we believe. And eventually, she became Catholic. Right now, I am mentoring her brother Casey through FOCUS as he prepares to convert to Catholicism. And this past year, after a lot of talking and praying about it, we both felt called to become FOCUS missionaries ourselves. We’re excited to get started.”
To contact the couple about sponsoring them, email Quinn at email@example.com or call him at 615-481-9755.