National Evangelization Team offers Davenport students guidance

National Evangelization Team member Billy Olson, left, prays for an Assumption High School sophomore during a retreat April 14. Sophomores from the Davenport high school attended a daylong retreat, held at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT — When Assumption High School sophomores Luke Powers, Bradley Grothus and Jordan McIntosh heard they would be going on a NET retreat, they knew it would not be “a boring retreat.”

All three had previously attended NET retreats in eighth grade for confirmation and knew the ice breakers, personal testimonies, small group discussions and prayers were something to look forward to.

Earlier this school year, National Evangelization Teams (NET) conducted workshops throughout the Davenport Diocese. But snowstorms forced the cancellation of some sessions for Assumption High School, said Dan Huber, the school’s campus minister. He feels fortunate to have rescheduled two makeup sessions last week. The nine NET teams conduct workshops at various sites across the U.S., so rescheduling the makeup sessions took a bit of work. Separate teams conduct each retreat.

On April 14 the Assumption sophomores spent the day at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Davenport.


Ten NET members, who hail from different parts of the United States, used songs, talks, dramas and prayer to make the point of staying connected to God.

They opened with skits and a face-to-face icebreaker with students. The NET members helped “mix it up” to encourage students to get together with people who were not their close friends. NET member Tanya Starwalt, 24, of Louisiana, was leader for the day. She told the students that NET is a volunteer program that puts on retreats from August through May all over the U.S. Team members, ages 18-28, make a nine-month commitment at a time.

According to the NET Ministries website, its goal is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ through personal witnesses of faith, invite young people to live for Christ, form young people in Christian character and equip youth workers and young adults with ministry skills needed for evangelization.

The guidelines for the April 14 retreat were simple, Tanya told the participants. “Respect, equality and investment. We’re not any better than you guys.” She also told them that if they had their hearts and minds open, “you never know what the Lord will inspire you to do.”

Students divided into small groups in which they got to know each other and their NET leader. After the first small groups session, there was song and a presentation on Soul Satisfaction, the theme for the day.

Kelli Lyons of the NET team led that presentation, which focused on finding the Lord despite the distractions of today. Without the Lord “you will not be satisfied.”

A skit followed, and then a testimony and another small-group session. After lunch, the students and NET members went into the church. With only natural lighting filtering into the building, Eric Wilkes played the guitar and sang a song. Sam Castilleja of the NET team shared testimony about how a retreat helped turn her life around.

After a skit about temptations that distract people from God, the students spread out in small groups and reflected on their day. Some knelt. Others sat, some closed their eyes. Students wrote down on paper a commitment to God to take home and follow. Then each NET leader went to each student in their small group, placed a hand on their shoulder and prayed silently for that person.

Tanya asked the students to remember four things to help in their relationship with God: prayer, sacraments, fellowship and service.

Luke said he liked the day because there was no pressure from others to share what they didn’t want to. “The talks were good. We were free to say whatever we wanted. We could elaborate or talk a little. They gave us time to pray and search for what makes us happy. That is God.”

Bradley was excited to come back to a NET retreat. “They connect with us. Their first-hand stories relate so much better than reading about experiences out of a book.”

Jordan felt it was a good experience and felt the talks were good because they were personal.

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