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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

AFA helps Marquette student-athletes deepen their faith

Marquette AFA changed its name from FCA so it could get more funding. (Graphic courtesy of Marquette AFA.)

It started in 2018 with three student-athletes: former men’s basketball guard Markus Howard and former men’s lacrosse midfielders Jordan Schmid and Nick Singleton.

With a new name, but the same purpose, Marquette Academics, Faith and Athletics has grown to over 40 student-athletes across all sports in just five years.

The group was previously known as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but rebranded to AFA this year, as they were not able to receive funding due to conflicts between FCA and Marquette’s Jesuit ministry.

Graduate student attacker Devon Cowan, one of the current group leaders, said he was first introduced to the group in his first year by Schmid. 

“When I joined my freshman year, it was super small, (we) didn’t have a space,” Cowan said. “There was maybe six or seven consistent people per week, and it’s just been super cool to see that grow over the course of the five years that I’ve been here.”

At an average meeting, 18-20 members are in attendance, but their highest attendance has been in the 40s, which is something that Cowan said he is extremely proud of. The club gets into small groups to talk about their week before they jump into a Christian-based talk led by a group leader.

Along with Cowan, there are four other group leaders: senior midfielder Hailey Block, senior face-off specialist Luke Rios, junior forward Kate Gibson and junior golfer Max Lyons, the two latter athletes having just joined the leadership team this year. 

“When Devon first started going, he had maybe like four or five guys going, and now we have a leadership team that’s that same amount of people,” junior forward Molly Keiper, an AFA member since her first year, said. “You have a big enough group where you need a leadership team of that size.”  

The new name and logo, decided on by the entire group as of this year, has faith in the middle of academics and athletes.

“We came to the name AFA, which stands for academics, faith and athletics,” Cowan said. “That’s the representation where we’re a perfect balance between athletics and academics, and the coming together in the middle is our faith.”

Keiper said the rebrand empowered the group to hone in on what its purpose actually was.

“That transition from FCA to AFA allowed for us to define what we wanted this group to be about and who we wanted to represent as student-athletes at Marquette,” Keiper said. “That was just a really cool process to see the group grow together like that and really define what we wanted to do and what our mission was going to be.”

The group meets every Sunday, being led by either a group leader or a guest speaker. One of those guest speakers was men’s lacrosse assistant coach Bo Lori.

“One of the things I shared with that group before I spoke was being forced to put thoughts on my own faith into words and prepare something really helped me grow,” Lori said. “I was just thankful for the chance to speak because it really challenged me to have to internalize what I actually believe and put it into words, which only further cements what I believe.” 

Cowan said that Lori has been a role model not just for the lacrosse team, but also for others who have gotten the chance to know him.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re just having a normal conversation or something he puts in writing, but he does a really good job at caring in a world that is just always chaotic, always judgey, very all over the place,” Cowan said. “At the end of the day, he sees the best in everybody, and that is a very underrated value for people in our generation at least.”

AFA is completely run by student-athletes, and they do everything from fundraising for pizza to creating games they play at meetings, which Lori said is the most astonishing part of it all.

“It’s just incredible what that group is doing and how they’ve led and how they’ve continued to build it year-to-year despite the leaders leaving from year-to-year,” Lori said. “It just speaks to the way that they’re pouring into those younger student-athletes who are taking it and not only sustaining it, but building it.”

On top of being a safe space for athletes to share their faith, Keiper said she has developed relationships with people she might not have met otherwise through AFA.

“When we get into more of those faith-based talks, you just develop a relationship that becomes really special,” Keiper said. “It’s something outside of your sport, outside of school that you can fall back on and a new group of people that can be a net that you have in your life.”

A group that started with three athletes has grown into so much more. When Cowan thinks of AFA, he said he is reminded of a certain Bible verse.

“I think of the quote Matthew 18:20, ‘Where two or more gather in my name, there I shall be,’” Cowan said. “Incredible things happen when this group comes together.”

This story was written by Kaylynn Wright. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @KaylynnWrightMU.

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Kaylynn Wright
Kaylynn Wright, Assistant Sports Editor
Kaylynn Wright is a sophomore from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin studying journalism, and she is an Assistant Sports Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire, she enjoys reading and watching baseball, specifically the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox. She is excited to meet new people and continue to create high-quality sports content for the Wire.

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