By Anne Marie Amacher
Each year a team from NET Ministries comes to the Diocese of Davenport to speak to youth about Christ and the church. The National Evangelization Team arrived in the diocese Dec. 3 for a two-week tour.
The mission of the international youth ministry organization is to “challenge young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the church.”
Nine teams travel across the U.S. visiting schools and youth ministry programs. Team Four made its stop in the Diocese of Davenport.
Dan Huber, spiritual director at Assumption High School in Davenport, said NET was to offer talks to freshmen, sophomores and seniors on the theme “Soul Satisfaction.” But weather interfered. While freshmen participated in the day-long program Dec. 8, school was cancelled Dec. 9 and 10. “We hope to reschedule,” he said.
Huber said NET offers peer-to-peer ministry that is appealing to youth. Each team has about 19 members ranging typically in age from 19-26.
“These young people are willing to share how their faith has impacted their lives. They share so much in common with youth. They share the same culture, movies, music, faith and can communicate a different message than when adults talk to the same age group.”
The Soul Satisfaction theme was chosen because Huber views youth as being hungry for their faith. “Do we look to what the world and our society tells us will satisfy our hunger for happiness, or do we look to God?”
Huber said it’s great to see NET members excited about living out their faith. “Youth can see someone their own age talk about how important God is to them.”
Patti McTaggart, youth minister at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, hosted a NET retreat Dec. 12. It was open to all Iowa City area parishes. “I opened it up to all the parishes for the Confirmation Advance experience as well,” she said. About 120 students attended the retreat.
“The NET team does a fantastic job with these young people and the day goes by so fast,” McTaggart added. She chose “Igniting the Flame” as the overall theme and Confirmation Advance theme because the theme deals with the sacrament of confirmation and the Holy Spirit.
She also asked the NET team to delve into topics on defending the faith.
NET is comprised of college-age young adults who have taken time off to travel the country and share their Catholic faith with youth, and that’s inspiring to high-schoolers, she said.
“The reason I continue to have NET back is because they are solid in their Catholic faith. No ‘fluff’ or ‘feel-good’ Catholicism. It’s not easy being a committed, strong Catholic Christian in our secular society. The kids need to know that — and to see examples of people who are committed and who do follow the church and all the church’s teachings, not just the teachings that are ‘popular’ or ‘comfortable’ to follow. The NET teams have always demonstrated this to me.”
Sam Buatti, a freshman at City High School in Iowa City and member of St. Mary Parish said, “Coming into it, I thought that it would be stupid and boring, but the NET team really did a great job in making it a fun experience and an enjoyable time. My team leader Jeffery especially did a great job in making this fun. The Confirmation Advance really jump-started my faith and made me want to start a prayer life of my own.”
Marie Schnoebelen, a freshman at Regina High School in Iowa City and member of St. Mary Parish, said, “This was an eye-opening experience for me.” She felt she would leave the day “with a more open heart.”
Jacob Miller, a freshman at West High School in Iowa City and member of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, said NET “put everything into terms that are easy to relate to.”
Regina freshman Lizzy Schropp of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City said, “It was nice to be around all the different people and hear their stories.”
Thirty-seven junior high students attended a NET retreat at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. Leigh Boorn, youth minister, said she had positive feedback from parents about how excited their youth were about their faith. One mom commented that her son now wants to attend a future National Catholic Youth Conference event.
This year’s NET also visited St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass, St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, St. Mary Parish in Sigourney and St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.
Huber noted that the teams stay in host homes. “They don’t just do retreats. They do ministry in the homes, too. They show their prayer life and generosity and gratitude. They leave an impression on people.”