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Each week, we bring you compelling conversation with church leaders and laity. Today, host Rick Howick welcomes Michal Sequeira and Zach Fiedler. These are young people who have a call to minister to their peers on college campuses.

FOCUS stands for “The Fellowship of Catholic University Students.” Over 700 Focus Missionaries are currently active on college campuses all over the U.S. today.

This kind of work is desperately needed in today’s society, and they need our support and prayers!

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Originally broadcast on 7/11/20


It started when our middle child went off to study at UC Berkeley and grew worse when our youngest left for UC Davis last September.  

Nobody needed me to pick them up from baseball or football practice, help them with assignments, or whip up a big family dinner.  

For the first time in decades, I had free time. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I missed the 24/7 demands of mothering three healthy, active kids. I felt adrift. 

Still, I wasn’t alone. Some experts estimate that up to 75 percent of parents experience some symptoms of empty-nest syndrome, the time of transition following the departure of your last child from the family home, whether for college, marriage, or a job in a different town.  

For many parents, says Lisa Klewicki, a clinical psychologist and Divine Mercy University professor, this time of transition can be distressing.  

“The difficulty of adjusting to your changing role as a parent can lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and diminished purpose in life,” she writes in Catholic Digest. 

While people attribute the majority of empty-nest-related issues to moms, research shows that it hits dads just as hard, notes therapist and author Gregory Popcak. 

But it’s not all bad news, notes Popcak in “Feathering Your Empty Nest,” published by the Pastoral Services Institute. “For parents who are prepared, research shows that the empty-nest years can be a great time for getting new levels of enjoyment out of your marriage and your personal life,” he says.  


Couples Time 

While adjusting to our empty nest took time, I’m happy now. My husband Les retired last year and we’re doing more together, like the hike we took last weekend in Santiago Oaks Regional Park. 

Les is my personal trainer and we hit the gym twice a week. We took a class in Greek cooking last summer and next month will learn to cook Chinese dumplings. I’m also signing us up for a swing dancing class. 

We enjoy Philharmonic Society and Pacific Symphony concerts and plan to spend a long weekend with friends in Palm Springs next month. Last year we took trips to London, Vancouver and Victoria, and the Portland area. We’re discussing a big European trip to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary in June. 


Time for Myself 

The empty nest means I can read novels, listen to true crime podcasts, spend time with my mother, and pursue long-delayed hobbies. I take yoga and go for long walks with blues or rock music throbbing in my headphones. I’ve always wanted to study Tai Chi but never had time – and I just earned my grey belt.  

Perhaps most important, I’ve set up a prayer table in the living room next to the fireplace with a candle and my Catholic Bible, rosary, prayer books and books about the saints.  

I finally have the time to develop and sustain a prayer life. 

Klewicki is right when she says an empty nest can be enjoyable. “If you are struggling,” she advises, “know that this stage of life does not need to be a time of suffering. Don’t miss out on this valuable time of your life. Make it something to look forward to with enthusiasm and excitement.”


November 14, 2018, marked the first day in the 2018-19 school year that high school seniors could officially sign letters of intent to continue in their respective sports at the collegiate level (excluding football). 

Santa Margarita Catholic High School celebrated 28 of their student athletes last month as they signed their NCAA letters of intent or made Ivy League, NAIA or walk-on school commitments. 

In girls soccer, Santa Margarita saw four college commitments including current Trinity League MVP Brianne Riley of San Clemente, who will be playing for UCLA. Riley is a two-sport athlete and is also a member of Santa Margarita’s 2017 CIF championship track and field team.  

Other girls soccer commits include Tatum Brakke of Coto de Caza who is headed to Loyola Marymount University, while her fellow Eagle Jaida Smith of Mission Viejo will play for Pepperdine University. Madison Curry of Coto de Caza is headed east as she has committed to play soccer for Princeton University. 

On the boys soccer side, three-year varsity starter and captain for the Eagles, Connor Gorrien of Ladera Ranch, has signed with California State University, Chico. Midfielder Austin Lavell of Trabuco Canyon will play for Point Loma Nazarene University. 

In boys basketball, 1st Team All-Trinity League member and 1000-point scorer Jake Kyman of Aliso Viejo will continue his playing career at UCLA. Kyman averages 17 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. His teammate, Max Agbonkpolo of Laguna Niguel, will be across town playing for USC. Agbonkpolo averages 14 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Shengzhe Li of Shanghai, China, has signed with BYU. 

Eight members of the Santa Margarita swimming and diving team have made college commitments. Kimmy Woolfenden of Mission Viejo will be swimming for the United States Air Force Academy. Nicholas Leavell of Coto de Caza, one of the most successful divers in Eagles history, is headed to the University of Michigan. Freestyle swimmer Mackenzie Degn of Mission Viejo has signed with California Baptist University. Miranda Renner of Laguna Niguel will be swimming for University of California, San Diego, and breaststroke swimmer Caitlin Caruso, also of Mission Viejo, has committed to Seattle University. Distance swimmer Noah Brune of Mission Viejo and six-time individual event CIF qualifier Kevin Tu of Irvine will both swim for the Ivy League next year at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Alexander Ness of San Clemente has committed to swim for Biola University. 

Two of Santa Margarita’s baseball players have made college commitments. Right-handed pitcher Alex Schrier of San Clemente had an ERA of 1.96 last season and will be playing for University of California, Santa Barbara. Left-handed pitcher Spencer Edwards of Rancho Santa Margarita will head to New York to pitch for Cornell University. 

Back in the pool, girls water polo team member and four-year varsity center Ava Perkins of San Clemente has committed to the University of Hawaii. Perkins has also participated in the last 10 consecutive Junior Olympics and has trained at the USA Olympic Training Center. On the boys side, four-year varsity player Angel Sanchez of San Juan Capistrano will play water polo for California Baptist University. 

From the golf course, three- year varsity member of the Lady Eagle golf team and Dove Canyon resident Justine Cook will be playing for Merrimack College. This past season, Cook was named 2nd Team All-Trinity League had an overall nine-hole average of 39.9. 

In girls lacrosse, lead scorer and Eagle team MVP Katelyn Murphy of Aliso Viejo has committed to California State University, San Diego. The midfielder is a member of the California Scholarship Federation as well as an Academic All-American and 1st Team All-County honoree. 

On the softball diamond, four-year varsity starter and team captain Miranda Johnson of Rancho Santa Margarita will continue her athletic career at the University of Notre Dame. Johnson plays both middle infield and outfield for the Eagles and has a .417 batting average. Her teammate and fellow captain Isabella Fiorentino, also of Rancho Santa Margarita, is headed to the University of Pennsylvania. Fiorentino was named Offensive Player of the Year in 2018. 

Trinity League and CIF champion on the track, sprinter Tessa Green of Ladera Ranch, will be running for Columbia University. And rounding out Santa Margarita’s student athlete signees this fall, four-year varsity volleyball player Shane Suxho of Ladera Ranch has committed to play at the University of Southern California as a preferred walk-on, while McKenna Morgan of Coto de Caza will join the Trojans rowing team. 

“We are incredibly proud of our student-athletes here at Santa Margarita,” says Santa Margarita Athletic Director, Annie Mai-Garrett. “Their ability to juggle athletics and academics, as well as their community service, is truly remarkable and a true testament to the student athletes that you find here at Santa Margarita Catholic High School.”


Exposing high school students to great works of literature is a good thing, but honestly not many kids have the life experience to really appreciate the human drama and existential questions explored by Dostoyevsky, Melville, Joyce and Fitzgerald – to name just a few. In fact, even the Bible requires a certain sophistication garnered from life experience and an appreciation for context that most young people don’t have.  

Then comes college, a time that is meant to teach people to think critically, but all too often college is dominated by a secular point of view that requires conformity. Young people may encounter, often for the first time, criticism of Catholicism and challenges to their belief in God. Instead of applying critical thinking and analysis to these challenges, there is great pressure to simply conform to new and heady ideas. 

Even well-catechized youth can find their world rocked, not only by these challenges, but also by the temptations of drugs and alcohol; sex; activism and peer pressure. Sadly, if their faith is not grounded in an adult-version theology that knows the answers to prickly questions they can fall away as soon as they are lured in a new direction. 

The child who left home an altar server may return at Christmas an avowed atheist, anarchist and gender-neutral stranger. 

So how can we help our young people stay connected to God and faith when they venture out into the wilds of a secular society? Sending them to a Catholic college is no protection, this is the time the individual must choose to remain in the light of faith or, as some would say, go to the dark side. 

Father Damien Giap, O. Praem, has been counseling college bound students for more than 11 years. “The first thing to drop off is Mass attendance, it is often just laziness,” says Fr. Damien. “When this happens, parents should remain calm encourage them to become active in a Newman center or other Catholic club on campus where they can be supported in their faith and build friendships. Let your child know you want to be a sounding board and encourage them to talk to you.”  

This isn’t the time to badger or argue, but a time to listen. It’s also a great time to bone up on your own understanding of Church teaching – not just the rules, but why the rules are there and how following them will lead to peace and happiness.  

There are a lot of resources online that can help people resolve the arguments against faith. The Magis Center, based at Christ Cathedral, has one of the best websites ( for questions about faith and science, the existence of God and much more. Established by Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J., an astrophysicist by training and former president of Gonzaga University, he understands how to present spiritual questions to the discerning adult mind.  

Other online resources include, which provides Q&A on the most common questions and arguments. There are literally thousands of books available from Catholic publishers such as Ignatius Press, Sophia Institute, Loyola Press, Ascension Press and Ave Maria press.  

The best thing to do is to pray, prepare yourself while they are away and remember Jesus’ words in John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” God loves your children even more than you do. He gave them a good mind. You gave them a loving, Christ-centered home, and even if you didn’t, God is in charge and will find a way to lead your children back to him. Use this time as a learning experience — just resist the temptation to roll your eyes.


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although it is not unusual for a pope to set aside temporarily the limit of 120 cardinals under the age of 80, Pope Francis has done so in a way that could last for more than a year. 

The pope announced May 20 that he would create 14 news cardinals June 29; 11 of them are under the age of 80 and would be eligible to enter a conclave to elect a new pope. 

In early June, Cardinal Angelo Amato will celebrate his 80th birthday, which will drop the number of electors to 114. Three weeks later, the batch of new cardinals will raise the number of potential electors to 125. 

Cardinal Amato is the last cardinal to turn 80 in 2018. And it will take until July 31, 2019, for another five cardinals to age out. 

Confirming the limit of 120 electors set by Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II wrote in “Universi Dominici Gregis,” his rules for a conclave, that “the maximum number of cardinal electors must not exceed 120.” 

That led one major news agency to report, “If a conclave has to be called before any other cardinal turns 80, the electors would have to draw lots to see which five men would be barred from the gathering.” 

Conclaves don’t happen that often and none in recent history took place when there were more than 120 eligible electors. But the idea of a lottery for entrance into the Sistine Chapel, where the voting would take place, led many people to scratch their heads. 

After all, “Universi Dominici Gregis” and the changes made to it by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 both strongly state: “No cardinal elector can be excluded from active or passive voice in the election of the supreme pontiff.” 

A pope, as the supreme legislator of the Catholic Church, can set aside the limit of 120 potential electors. But doing so does not change the no-exclusion clause. 

And while a year may be a long time to exceed the 120 limit, exceeding it by five cardinals is minor compared to what St. John Paul II did in February 2001. Creating 44 new cardinals — the biggest batch ever at one consistory — the pope raised the number of cardinal electors to 135. 

St. John Paul created another 30 cardinals in 2003, bringing the number of electors back up to 135 once again. But, by the time he died in 2005, only 117 were under 80, and two of those were too ill to participate in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict. 

The Polish pope’s mega-consistories broadly expanded the international — in other words, the catholic — identity of the College of Cardinals. It is a process that continues. 

Pope Francis’ latest cardinals-designate include churchmen from five countries not currently represented in the College of Cardinals. But each of those countries — Bolivia, Pakistan, Japan, Madagascar and Iraq — has had a cardinal in the recent past. 

With the edition of the new cardinals, the group of electors will represent 67 nations. The cardinals who elected Pope Francis in 2013 came from 48 countries. 

The number of Italians with a red biretta, the cardinal’s three-cornered hat, still far exceeds those of any other nation, and Pope Francis is about to add three more to their number. 

The day before the consistory, 18 Italians would be eligible to enter a conclave — 19 if you count Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Italy-born nuncio to Syria, who Pope Francis made clear was chosen to represent Syria. Still, in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, 28 were Italian. 

The country with the next-highest number of cardinal electors is the United States, which has 10 cardinals under the age of 80. 

At a Mass with the College of Cardinals in 2017, a Mass marking his 25th anniversary as a bishop, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church is not a “gerontocracy” ruled by old men; “we aren’t old men, we are grandfathers.” 

But his choices for the June consistory do very little to lower the average age of the group of electors. Only one, Cardinal-designate Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, is still in his 50s. He is 54. Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, is 51 years old and still will be the youngest cardinal once the consistory is over. 

On June 28, there will be 114 electors with an average age of 71 years, 11 months and one day. After the consistory the next day, there will be 125 electors with an average age of 71 years, eight months and 20 days. 

The cardinals who elected 58-year-old Cardinal Karol Wojtyla — St. John Paul II — in 1978 had an average age of 67.  



Dean Sanchez never had a chance.

“My brother and I were taken away because of our parents’ drug abuse,” he says. “I was a year and a half old, and he was 6 months. My aunt and uncle took custody of us.

“Between age 3 and 4, I had very serious anger issues. A number of times, using different methods, I tried to kill my little brother.

“So I was put into a group home,” Sanchez continues. “A lot of my early memories are blank, but I’ll never forget the ride there. I remember pulling up to this big white building. When the car stopped, this guy opened the car door and pulled me out. I had no idea what was going on and began to cry. My aunt, uncle and little brother left.”

His future – if he even had a future – was bleak.

Sanchez was eventually moved to another group home, where he met and bonded with a kind, generous staff member. Following a few more moves, he eventually wound up living with a foster-care family in Riverside County. With their love, his life stabilized and he stayed there until he finished high school.

“I was always a good student, but I never gave my best effort,” he says. “Cal State Fullerton was my first choice for college, but I was denied entry.”

Then the Guardian Scholars Program stepped in. And Sanchez’s life changed forever.

“Guardian Scholars overrode the denial letter, and I got readmitted. Thanks to them, I really gave more effort in college. I get pretty good grades.”

Now a 22-year-old senior, Sanchez is majoring in business administration with concentrations in accounting, finance and entrepreneurship.

First developed in 1998 at Cal State Fullerton, the Guardian Scholars Program is the kind of organization that prioritizes the needs of the poor and vulnerable, a core element of Catholic social teaching. To date, it has assisted more than 200 students between 17 and 23 who are exiting the foster-care system. Guardian Scholars offers full academic scholarships and a variety of support services to boost educational and interpersonal skills: year-round on-campus housing, priority class registration, individual counseling and life coaching, academic and community-enrichment activities, and much more. The university admits 10 to 15 students to the program every fall semester.

“Today, there are over 100 [Guardian Scholars] programs across the nation, and it’s really growing,” says Deanna Merino-Contino, director of the Center for Scholars. “It’s now even offered by some community colleges.”

It all started when Ron Davis (CSUF Class of ’69) founded the Guardian Scholars after meeting with then-director of the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Gene Howard, and Robert Palmer, now-retired CSUF VP of Student Affairs. The chairman of Davis Capital and founder of The Perrier Group of America, Davis personally donated $250,000 to the cause.

Today, the program is funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations – literally “angel investors” – including Orangewood, United Way of Orange County, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, Selman Chevrolet and many more.

“About 90 percent of the scholarship money comes from private donors and foundations, and about 10 percent is from grants,” says Merino-Contino. “As far as the programming aspect [non-scholarship-related funds], 100 percent is from grants.”

Students must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, attend workshops and monthly meetings, and perform volunteer work in the community.

“I didn’t expect the volunteer work to be so fulfilling,” says Arianna Espinoza, a 19-year-old junior. “It’s crazy how many opportunities that [Guardian Scholars] has to give back to the community. For me, it was a real life changer.”

Originally a kinesiology major on CSUF’s softball team, she left the sport to devote more time to volunteering. Espinoza loves volunteering so much, she dropped kinesiology and will likely switch to sociology with a minor in child and adolescent development. For her altruistic efforts, she has received the Guardian Scholars’ Spirit of Volunteerism Award for the most hours worked in an academic year.

“Now I really want to work with children,” Espinoza says. “Kids who grow up without their parents really benefit from those who understand what that’s like. So I thought, ‘I have experience with that. Why not me?’”

Espinoza first struggled at Cal State Fullerton. “When I started college, I was just lost,” she says. “Then Guardian Scholars connected me with a mentor. …With her help, I was able to turn my grades around.

“One of the main things I like about the program is the support we get,” she says. “There is someone there for everything. When you have a bad day, if there’s a problem with one of your classes, whatever is going on, they’ll always connect you with the right person.”

Sanchez concurs: “The director and all the staff are really friendly and helpful. It’s always great to come to the center – there’s always a sense of family.”

This summer, Sanchez is interning at Donahue Schriber, a Costa Mesa–based real estate investment trust, as well as a Guardian Scholars supporter.

“I’ve always wanted to run my own business,” Sanchez says. “All I want is a comfortable life: a wife, kids, a house. My main motivation is to give my [future] kids a better life than I had growing up, so they don’t go through the same things I did.”

Thanks in large part to Cal State Fullerton’s Guardian Scholars Program, Dean Sanchez is well on his way toward doing just that.



As young high school graduates prepare to leave home for college, their parents harbor mixed feelings of pride and concern about how their offspring will handle their new independence.

Catholic parents, like their non-Catholic peers, are talking to their children over the summer about balancing their social and academic lives, caring for their health, assuring their safety on campus, seeking help if class work seems daunting and checking in routinely with their families.

In addition, parents of Catholic high school graduates pray that their children will hold onto their faith and continue their spiritual growth as they become exposed, often for the first time, to academic environments where their Catholicism may be challenged.

“I am excited. But I also am nervous, anxious,” says Paige Tecca, describing how she feels as her 18-year-old daughter, Morgan Byrne, a graduate of J. Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, prepares to study at the University of California at Berkeley.

Tecca, a single mother, says she and her daughter, who will double major in history and legal studies, have talked about the possibility that some Berkeley professors could espouse atheism. “She is concerned about being able to articulate her faith in a constructive manner without being argumentative,” says Tecca.

Tecca says her daughter discovered that Berkeley has a Newman Center where she can attend Mass and a Catholic fellowship group she will join.

It is fortunate that Morgan will also meet non-Catholics, her mother says, so she will “learn to have tolerance for people of other faiths,” and those with no faith. “We have discussed that we are all children of God whether we know it or not,” Tecca says.

At an orientation for prospective freshmen and their parents at Berkeley, Tecca says, “there was a lot of discussion about the transition to young adulthood.”

“As a parent you just pray that you instilled in them the ability to make good choices and know their moral responsibilities,”” she says.

Kelly Bauer, director of the guidance and counseling office at Mater Dei High School, says as a parent she would want her college-bound child to know how to advocate for himself and to have the campus phone numbers for medical care, counseling and law enforcement.

College students, especially girls, should be warned never to walk home alone at night to their dorms and instead to travel in groups for safety, she says.

Bauer says prospective freshmen should also be warned about social media—something that didn’t concern previous generations. She says if they post inappropriate pictures and messages on the Internet it could gravely tarnish their graduate school and employment prospects.

Michael P. Brennan, the principal of Servite High School in Anaheim, says his chief concern and that of many Servite parents is for the graduates to keep on track spiritually. Parents “see the changes in the world and that our colleges are becoming more secular,” Brennan says.

Brennan urges the young men not to be swayed by professors who may tell them that knowledge and reason will give them power and that they don’t need God.

Marjan Dunn, whose 17-year-old son Richard is a Servite graduate heading to Harvard, says she and her husband “are excited for him, and that kind of overshadows every concern.”

She says her son has a solid faith that she does not believe will be compromised. During a weekend orientation at Harvard in April, Dunn says, Richard “went and sought out a Catholic church on that Sunday and met the priest and some people going there and really enjoyed it.”

Richard was an enthusiastic high school debater and will use those skills if his values are questioned, his mother predicts.

“I think he is up to the challenge,” she says. “I don’t expect most of the people he meets will share his views. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to hear him argue with them. I don’t think they know what is coming.”