NET members offer ‘strong witnesses’ to faith

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By Anne Marie Amacher

Amber Samuelson of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield reacts to a speaker during a NET Ministries retreat at the parish Jan. 17. NET member Joe Zabinski is seated next to Samuelson.

Young adults sharing their faith with teenagers has a bigger impact on those youths than listening to a 40-something youth minister, says Derick Cranston — who fits that description. He’s the youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman.

The young adults he was referring to participate in the National Evan­gelization Teams Ministry (NET), which visited the Diocese of Davenport this month. Minnesota-based NET Ministries challenges young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church.

A NET team of 11 young adults ages 18-28 spent Jan. 10-24 in the Davenport Diocese. They visited eight different parishes/schools. Youth ministers, who often do the inviting, may choose from several different programs. Each NET team is trained to conduct all of the programs.

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“It is important for our youth to understand and appreciate what it means to be Catholic,” Cranston said. “A great aspect of this retreat is that it is led by young adults in their late teens and early 20s. A 14- or 15-year-old is more likely to be impacted by a young adult sharing their faith, than a 40-something youth minister.

“It is also my hope that this experience will give youth a little taste of how wonderful an experience a retreat can be. If they have a good experience, they will hopefully participate in other retreats.”

At the Riverside parish retreat center, Cranston chose the NET program Why Catholic. “I have always felt that teens are always searching for where they fit in and who they are; trying to establish an ‘identity’ so to speak. My hope is that this retreat will strengthen their Catholic identity and make it a deep part of who they are.”

The Jan. 18 evening session featured skits, music, personal testimonies and small-group discussions. The night wrapped up in the church with a “powerful prayer service led by the NET team leaders.”

Team leader Rene Rubalcava stated, “There are many different challenges and struggles, but the Lord provides us with the tools. God’s grace is definitely present either through team members or through a youth.”

After the retreat, youth participant Lexi Duwa said the small-group sessions were her favorite. “We shared some really deep thoughts, things we would not normally talk about, and got to know more about the people in our group.”

Alison Riggan admitted, “I had a long day and I thought going in, this night would take forever. But now, I am so glad I came.”

Kory Schnoebelen’s favorite part of the retreat was the personal stories NET leaders shared with the group. “I really liked everything, but the personal stories were what got to me the most.”

St. Mary Parish in Fairfield hosted NET on Jan. 17. Jean Dorothy, religious education coordinator, chose the NET program Reality Check.

Therese Cummisky, youth minister, said she appreciates that the Davenport Diocese makes the NET experience available to parishes.

“I loved having the NET team at our parish. To have young adults — some of them only a few years older than our juniors and seniors — being strong witnesses to their faith is more valuable, I think, than a month of religious ed classes.”

Responding to the question “How did you experience God in this retreat,” Jacob Adam wrote, “lots of goosebumps.”


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