Person, places and things: A lasting impression

Barb Arland-Fye
NET Ministries Team 7 (2022-23) led a retreat for youths at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire Jan. 14. Pictured, from left, are Emma Sorenson, Jacinta Berg, Alex Sujkowski, Sarah Pennington, Ricky Koon, Charles Reber, Marina Sanchez and Rosa Matamoros.

By Barb Arland-Fye
Eight young adult Catholics with a passion for their faith touched the lives of youths and adults with whom they shared the joy of the Gospel in our diocese recently. During brief interviews with several of the NET Ministries missionaries, I gained a glimpse of the young Church committed to passing on the faith.

They arrived at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire on a Friday night, Jan. 13, where the parish’s Family Life team had prepared a potato bar for the hungry missionaries. They led a retreat the next day for confirmation students from the parishes of St. Peter-Buffalo, St. Alphonsus and Holy Family-Davenport, Church of the Visitation-Camanche, and Our Lady of the River. That Sunday, they led a retreat for sixth- and seventh-graders at St. Mary Parish in Pella.

The missionaries, ages 18 to 23 and from all over the U.S., connected with their hosts. They talked about family, faith and their journey to become NET missionaries. “I was looking around the table and everybody was engaged in conversation,” said Roberta Pegorick, the religious education director for Our Lady of the River and business manager for Holy Family. “I could tell our group got as much out of it as the missionaries did.”

Their secular lives are on pause as they travel to parishes, leading retreats for middle school and high school students. NET seeks to engage “young people through authentic, relational ministry built on sincere interest, care and respect for the dignity and value of each human person as sons and daughters of God” (


Charles Reber, 22, of Minnesota is a co-leader of NET Ministries Team 7 (2022-23) with Jacinta Berg of Nebraska. Charles was working as an apprentice electrician when his sister, a NET missionary, encouraged him to apply. The growth he witnessed in her personal faith journey moved him. He participated in a NET discernment retreat and felt uplifted by the experience. “Seeing young adults really passionate about their faith was really cool to me.”

“It’s been really good,” he said after the LeClaire retreat, the 52nd of this academic year. “We like to have fun on a retreat. We want them (the youths) to know that they can still practice their faith and have fun. It’s huge for them to see other young Catholics of faith. I think that makes the biggest difference.”

Jacinta, 22, was working as a nanny before she became a NET missionary. Her parents, who met as co-leaders on a NET team and later married, hosted NET teams in their home when Jacinta was growing up. “That left an impression,” she said. Her older brother, a NET missionary, encouraged her to apply.

After participating in an intensive retreat to learn more about NET, “I had so much peace. I knew it was the right move.” The first year was a great experience for Jacinta, now in her second year

Youths participate in a NET retreat Jan. 15 at St. Mary Parish-Pella.

with NET. She enjoys the combination of working with kids and being part of a team, she said. “Every retreat is different. Every parish has its own community, its own culture. How do we speak to the youth? Obviously, the Holy Spirit is speaking through us. Every single morning, we take 30 minutes of personal prayer because you can’t give what you don’t have.” The team also prays together daily, for about 45 minutes, usually after the retreat.

Sarah Pennington, 22, of Oklahoma, came to NET after her involvement with the Theology of the Body Institute in Pennsylvania, which she described as a beautiful experience. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be involved somehow in Catholic retreats and conferences.

She is a cradle Catholic, but “when I was younger, I went through the motions. I never really owned my faith until this past summer.”

Discerning and affirming her decision to serve as a NET missionary, is “the best ‘yes’ I ever said. On NET, you meet so many incredible people. …. You’re all there to glorify God and to help everyone else on the way. Now I have so many Catholic friends I didn’t have before.”

She described the confirmation students at the LeClaire retreat as quiet, initially. By the end of the day, “God softened their hearts and opened their minds to receive love from their NET mentors.”

Robert James Evers, 14, of the Camanche parish, thought the NET retreat would be a sit-down classroom experience. It was very active and fun instead, he said. He would advise his friends that the experience is worth the time and a way to have fun and practice the Catholic faith.

Paulina Loaiza, director of faith formation for the Pella parish, appreciated the NET missionaries for their powerful witness to her students and for herself. Seeing the team praying together in the church after the retreat inspired her. Roberta felt the same way back in LeClaire. “I felt like they were ministering to all of us.”

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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