Ten teams train to challenge youth to embrace their faith

| September 7, 2010 | 0 Comments
Net Ministries

From left, Nick Redd of Alton, Ill.; Katy Blythe of North Huntingdon, Pa.; Dan Driver of Reading, England; Josh Gamiao of Modesto, Calif.; and Kristen Miranda of West Covina, Calif., jump for joy as part of their training to serve with NET Ministries during this school year. Photo courtesy of NET?Ministries

Cate Bunnell and Maggie Vettel are among 110 members of National Evan­gelization Teams Min­is­tries who are completing training as retreat leaders.

Team members will be serving Catholic par­ishes throughout the country this year — in­cluding two in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Min­neapolis.

Bunnell, 26, began attending Lifeline youth Masses and re­treats at the NET Center in West St. Paul when she was a teenager.

“NET has always been such a great part of my life,” said Bunnell, a mem­ber of St. Nicholas in New Market and graduate of Franciscan University in Steu­ben­ville, Ohio. “This past year, I felt the Lord calling me to grow closer to him and to give my life over in a concrete way as a missionary and to spread that joy and love.”

Vettel, 21, signed on for a second season with NET, after interrupting her pursuit of an education degree at Bene­dictine College in Atchi­son, Kan., to serve at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Has­tings beginning last fall.

“My experience at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton last year, as a part of their first NET parish team, was very blessed,” said Vettel, a member of Spirit of Christ in Arvada, Colo. “It was a strengthening experience to be a consistent face in young people’s lives, to be a witness of the Lord to them and to watch personal conversion take place throughout the year.”

Continuing a tradition

Mark Berchem, founder and executive director of NET Ministries, said NET teams, comprised of young adults from 18 to 30 years old, have been presenting retreats to junior and senior high youth since 1981.

“We weren’t trying to start anything,” Berchem said. But after Berchem took a team to the Winona diocese in 1980 to do 16 retreats, like those that were being done at the St. Paul Catholic Youth Center, it took off. Bishop Paul Dudley, the late bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D., asked for a team to visit. Then a priest in Fargo, N.D., called.

“NET was off and running from there,” Berchem said.

Five years ago, NET placed its first dedicated parish team with Divine Mercy in Faribault, where a team served three years. St. Michael in St. Michael had a parish team for two years. Hastings will host a team again this year, as will All Saints in Lakeville.

“[Home teams are] still relatively new for us,” Berchem said. “We can only do one or two parishes at a time.”

NET will have 10 teams this year: seven will travel throughout the country and one will be based at the NET?Center in addition to the two at archdiocesan parishes, he said.

“Most parishes see a tremendous drop-off [in youth participation] after confirmation,” Ber­chem said. Parish team members meet young people at parish, school and sports events and people’s homes. They try to develop relationships with the youth and invite them back into church participation.

The parish team also works with kids that are very active and tries to help them to become leaders,” he added.

Building relationships

Bunnell, who was named a leader on a traveling team, said she was open to serving on a traveling team or in a parish. The benefit of a parish team, she said, is that you can build lasting relationships.

The challenge of being on a parish team is that she would be close to family and friends. “I wouldn’t want that to be a distraction,” said Bun­nell, who served the past three years as youth minister and religious education director at St. John the Bap­tist in Jordan.

“At St. John, I had the NET team come in a few times throughout the year for the seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders,” she said. After the retreats, the teens would talk about how much they got out of the prayer time, she said. “It was beautiful to witness that.”

Vettel said, “Our team walked into [St. Elizabeth Ann Seton] big-eyed, as we were beginning this new, exciting and, at times, nerve-racking mission of serving on a parish team with NET ministries.”

Many of the youth they met that first weekend became people with whom they developed wonderful, life-giving relationships, she said.

“It was a gift to be able to share my faith and how the Lord has worked in my life with the youth in Hastings,” Vettel said. “I learned even more about what it meant to be a constant witness of Christ.”

Berchem said NET presented 96 retreats last year in 54 parishes for about 5,000 youth in the archdiocese, and about 50,000 youth na­tion­wide in 90 dioceses.

Since 1981, about 1.5 million young people have attended a NET retreat. Among team alums, 51 have been ordained priests, about a dozen are in the seminary, 40 are religious sisters and many more are serving as youth ministers or religious education teachers.

“For a lot of them, NET is a training ground for their future service to the church,” Berchem said. “I think we’ve helped the church, in some way, recapture its evangelistic im­pulse.”

How to schedule a NET retreat

» Call: (651) 450-6833
» Visit: http://www.netusa.org

Select retreat dates are still available between Sept. 25 and Dec. 16 for parishes in the archdiocese.

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