By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — For three years Mary Schechinger has contemplated taking off a year of college to spread the Good News of the Catholic Church through the National Evangelization Team (NET).
A NET team visited St. Ambrose University in Davenport during her freshman year there. “I was really excited after it. I wish I had known about them before college, but they made an impression.”
She had just finished her first semester of college studying radio/TV, journalism and theology and wanted to stay on a four-year track. During her sophomore year, still interested in NET, she researched the group online. “My heart felt stirred up for a mission,” Schechinger said. “I have to do this. This is what I want to do in my life.”
She prayed about joining NET, but decided to continue her studies. By her junior year she decided she wanted to join NET. She talked with her family, who resides in Harlan, Iowa, and belongs to St. Michael’s Parish there. “I thought it would work better to do it now rather than wait until after graduation. I’d end up having to apply for jobs on the road toward the end of my mission.”
Schechinger talked with the financial aid office at St. Ambrose to determine how a year away to do mission work would impact her student finances. Personnel in the office said they would work with her. She talked with her advisor and with the university’s transfer coordinator who also were supportive.
Her mom, Konnie, said she was a bit skeptical at first. When Mary told her mom that she planned to take off her senior year, it took her some time to process it all. “I knew it would be a great opportunity for her but I also wanted her to finish her college education. Mary is the type of person that can get caught up in the moment and with NET Ministries, I knew it would be something she would fall in love with and want to do the rest of her life.
“When we talked about it, I told her that I really wanted her to finish her college degree because who knows what the future will bring? If she got the opportunity to have a permanent job with NET Ministries and wanted to do it, great!! But if she had her college degree as well, she would have other opportunities for employment if she decided not to stay with NET Ministries.”
Because Konnie hadn’t heard of NET Ministries when Mary first told her of this opportunity, Mary pulled up the website on a visit back home. “When she pulled up the website and I actually had time to sit down and do a little research to find out if it was a legitimate business, I was much more at ease with her wanting to do something like this. The more I read, the more I realized this would be a wonderful opportunity for Mary.”
When Konnie was talking about this with her best friend, “she said to me, ‘Konnie, if you would have had the opportunity to do this when you were Mary’s age, you would have in a heartbeat.’ And she’s right. She tends to be my voice of wisdom when I need outside counsel.”
“Ron (Mary’s dad and Konnie’s husband) and I fully support this wonderful opportunity that NET Ministries has given Mary. We both will miss her terribly but hopefully, we can keep in touch…. There is not a day that goes by that I am not proud of my daughter. She has lots to share about her Catholic faith and NET Ministries will be a perfect place for her to share her faith along with team members that are just as excited about their Catholic faith.”
Schechinger will travel to NET headquarters in West St. Paul, Minn., on Aug. 25 for five weeks of training. She hopes to earn a music leader spot and do a 10-day camp with NET.
As a member of a 12-member NET team, she’ll be on assignment and travel from October through mid-December, take a break, and return to the road mid-January through mid-May. She may renew her commitment to NET for another year if she chooses. Team members must be 18-28 years old.
She has talked with previous NET members who reside in the Quad-City area to learn about the joys and excitement of the ministry. The only drawback: having to live out of a suitcase for a year.
Each NET member is asked to raise $4,200 in partnership funds. That money goes toward insurance, retreat materials, the van and gasoline used for travel, meals and donations to host families. Each NET member also receives a $100 monthly stipend.
Schechinger is looking forward to this adventure in ministry. “It has challenged me, forced me to pray more, think more of people and to share in kindness and goodness.”
And she plans to apply what she learned at St. Ambrose about serving and helping others. “This will build up my faith and build my confidence.”
National Evangelization Teams Ministries asks each team member to raise $4,200, roughly a quarter of the cost of keeping him or her on the road for a year.
To donate money for Mary Schechinger, visit http://netusa.org/supportnet. You may also list her name in the memo section of a check made payable to NET Ministries, Inc. and mailed to NET Ministries, Inc., 110 Crusader Ave. W., West St. Paul, MN, 55118.
For more information, call (651) 450-6833.