Brian Couri had a clearly defined post-high school plan.
He was going to attend Colorado State University (CSU), experience the things college students typically experience, get a degree in fish and wildlife conservation biology, followed by a long career working to preserve the beauty of nature.
Plan your work and work your plan, goes the old saying. Couri was doing just that – until his junior year.
With one foot planted in the Protestant world and another in the Catholic Church, Couri’s parents challenged him to live the Catholic faith to the fullest.
“My parents challenged me to live my Catholic faith when they learned I was attending religious services at a Protestant church,” said Couri, who was baptized a Catholic as an infant.
With help, Couri took up his parents’ challenge. He was invited to get involved with the Catholic community on the CSU campus. That led to hanging out with CSU’s FOCUS (Fellowship of College University Students) crowd. He started participating in bible study and other on-campus Catholic events. Soon he was leading his own bible study group, mentoring students, and boldly sharing his faith with anyone who was willing to listen. Couri had found his fulfillment, what satisfied him, the source of his joy – Jesus Christ.
By his senior year, he had taken his parents’ challenge to the extreme. Couri interviewed and was accepted as a FOCUS missionary.
“I don’t think missionary work was exactly what my parents had in mind when they challenged me to live my Catholic faith,” Couri said.
Becoming a FOCUS missionary was a radical decision. Missionaries are assigned to a university in the U.S. where they are called to introduce students to Jesus, help students express their faith with others, and encourage them to invest in other students. Missionaries are required to make a two-year commitment.
After his training at Ave Maria University in Florida, Couri was sent as a missionary to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He uses creative ways to get to know students, such as organizing soccer games, playing spikeball on campus, and competing against students in racquetball. All are effective, but none more than “being my authentic self,” Couri said.
“We have been given this most amazing gift – Jesus,” Couri said. “How can we not share him? All of us are called, not just clergy, to share the Gospel. We are all in this together.”
Couri, 25, said college students are searching for happiness. He remembers when he was a college student he tried to find happiness in “numbing activities.” True happiness, he learned, was in Jesus Christ.
Couri said he finds missionary work exciting. Nothing satisfies him more than “watching a student share his or her faith with others.”
Couri knows by experience that he can’t give what he does not have. That is why he attends Mass every day and spends an hour a day praying before the Blessed Sacrament. He said he has experienced a lot of personal growth as a missionary. His trust in God has deepened.
“Every day I ask the Lord, ‘How are you loving me today?’” This intimacy he seeks with Jesus is what motivates him to get up in the morning and evangelize modern students on a growing urban campus.
Couri has signed on to be a FOCUS missionary for a third year. If he is assigned to UNO, his office will move in late-summer from the basement of Archdiocese of Omaha chancery building to the newly minted St. John Paul II Newman Center in Aksarben Village. Before the move, he will make a mission trip to Ireland.
Couri still enjoys the “great outdoors” and hiking; however, he no longer dreams of a preserving the beauty of nature. He is pursuing a higher calling right now: helping college students preserve the beauty of their soul.