By Anne Marie Amacher
Ten young adults and their team supervisors are traveling throughout the Diocese of Davenport this week and were in town last week for the National Evangelization Teams (NET) ministries.
The group’s members give witness about their faith to middle school, junior high and high school students throughout the United States.
Pat Finan, faith formation and youth ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport, said the retreats are about six hours long and include a meal with the young adults. Hosting parishes or schools may choose from four or five models on which the NET teams focus their talks. The visits include personal witness, prayer, skits, social time and a meal. Some sites also offer Mass.
NET has visited the diocese for at least eight years, Finan said. Some parishes or schools have a team come every year or every other year. The retreats are never the same because of the variety of topics to choose from.
NET started in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis in 1981 as an outreach program at St. Paul Catholic Youth Center, according to the NET Web site. It adopted the name NET in 1982 and expanded across the United States. It has since gone worldwide.
NET teams consist of 10-12 young adults ages 18-28. The seven retreat teams crisscross the United States and do retreats with about 70,000 youth per year. Two additional teams focus on building up individual parishes.
The NET team was delayed in its arrival, so events scheduled at St. Paul the Apostle on Jan. 13 and a visit St. Ambrose University in Davenport for a recruiting event Jan. 14 were cancelled. Snow forced a visit at Our Lady of Victory/John F. Kennedy in Davenport on Jan. 15 to be rescheduled for Jan. 20. But programs were a go for St. Andrew in Blue Grass on Jan. 16, St. Mary in Iowa City on Jan. 17 and Church of the Visitation in Camanche on Jan. 18. NET planned to go to Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison on Jan. 21, Holy Trinity High School in Fort Madison on Jan. 22, Holy Trinity Junior High School in Fort Madison on Jan. 23 and Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf on Jan. 24.
Patti McTaggart, youth minister at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, said NET has come to the Iowa City community at least six times. She thanked the diocese for expanding the invitation to allow NET to do retreats annually.
Having Catholic, college-age students “who really get it and understand their Catholic faith” is a great experience for the high school students, McTaggart said. NET team members “have a lot of fun and set great examples regarding the Eucharist, sacraments and Mass … These young adults are very grounded in their faith and don’t dummy down the information,” she said.
St. Mary hosted the retreat in Iowa City, but the invitation was extended to all confirmation and high school students in the Iowa City deanery. McTaggart noted that the age for confirmation at St. Mary’s is up to the individual students. “When they feel they are ready — anywhere between their freshman and senior year — it’s their choice.”
Sixty-five youths and 10 team members participated in the Iowa City NET retreat on Jan. 17. “Why Faith?” was the theme of the retreat that focuses on teaching high school students how to defend their faith, especially when they go off to college. “There are challenges out there, and NET will help them prepare for some of them.”
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf has hosted NET four times for confirmation students at the parish school and religious education program.
Eighth-graders “have been amazed by it,” says Lourdes’ youth minister Joyce Kloft. “They find out there are young adults active in the church. It renews the idea of faith beyond confirmation.”
She chose the “Why Faith?” theme because of the tools it provides to help students defend their faith. The youth are more apt to listen to young, college-age students than to some adult speakers, she thinks.