CORVALLIS — Twelve apostles are at work on the campus of Oregon State University this year.

Well, not those Twelve Apostles. But like that famous dozen from Palestine, the young Catholics hope to accompany students on a journey toward Christ.

The team of recent graduates is sponsored by the OSU Newman Center and is living a communal life of prayer and works of mercy.

“One thing I learned was how to be a missionary going forward and how important it is to have your life centered in prayer, learning and service to others,” said Jacob Hoertkorn, who was a missionary in 2019 and now coordinates the program.

Hoertkorn said the young missionaries will be taking in graces, not just giving them. That’s a lesson missionaries have learned since the church began.

“I am amazed how much I received,” Hoertkorn said of his 2019 experience. “The idea is to become a missionary for your whole life, not just for a year.”

The missionaries learn about the spiritual life and go through spiritual direction. They pray and fast for students. “I want them to see what happens when you center yourself in prayer,” said Hoertkorn.

Missionaries help the priests of the St. John Society and the Society of Mary[KH1] [KH2]  sisters run faith formation and inquiry programs. Students often feel like confiding in someone close to their own age. The missionaries also offer a powerful witness of faith on campus.

“The whole goal is expanding and meeting with as many people as possible and getting to know them and show them new life in Christ,” Hoertkorn said. “Missionaries invest in people one-on-one.”

In this pandemic year, Hoertkorn hopes the missionaries learn that Christ works through extraordinary times. Many events are taking place over Zoom, including one-on-one online prayer with students who are feeling isolated.

“The pandemic has put into perspective what is and what is not important,” Hoertkorn said. “For a lot of people it’s been a wake-up call. They are not putting off Mass any more. They realize there are more important things than just this life. It has brought a lot of people closer to Jesus.”