The Featured Articles list that appears on the Homepage is designed to highlight, or promote articles that have been explicitly selected by Content Editors when editing articles.
This "Featured" setting can be assigned or removed from articles whenever needed, so can be used for promoting some time-sensitive information contained in certain articles, or may be used to show commonly accessed or important articles so that users can quickly find them.
Featured articles will only be shown in this list if they are marked as "Published" and also only listed if the current user is allowed to view the article, based on User Groups settings they have been assigned match the Groups assigned to the article's category.
This list will only appear whenever some articles have been assigned as Featured. The maximum number of articles appearing in this list is also controlled by Admin Settings, including an option to specify this list is not shown, if desired.