A small town having a big impact on youth

A NET Ireland missionary team is having a big affect on a Co. Westmeath town

From a tiny village in the middle of the country, God is raising up saints. Delvin, in Co. Westmeath, is a village of about 500 people and, for a team of young missionaries just starting a year of service there, it seemed safe to assume that in such a small place few things that were truly amazing could ever happen.

Anthony Hartnett (18) a member of the NET (National Evangelisation Team) Ireland missionary team, has said that to his surprise his time in Delvin has actually been just that – amazing.

For the past three years, Fr Seamus Heaney has invited NET Ministries into his parish to serve the youth. In that time, the NET Teams have established a youth group for both secondary and primary students, have run youth Masses, Confirmation classes, youth rallies, Holy Week events, and so much more in their day-to-day living. Throughout the years, the response to the team has grown and grown.

Not only has the number of attendees to their events increased, but more impressively, the desire of the youth to know Jesus is astounding the teams that have had the privilege to serve the community of Delvin.

This desire was so great in the heart of one young woman that she decided to serve as a NET Missionary. Laura O’Neill, now 21, decided to share the fire that started to burn in her heart with other young people last year.

She served her year in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, and was blessed to be able to give what she had received just a year before: a chance to encounter Jesus through caring and loving young people.


Having a team in Delvin has impacted Laura’s life greatly. Since encountering the team, she actively participates and volunteers her time with Youth 2000 and seeks to deepen her relationship with Jesus daily.

Anthony, originally from Bray, Co. Wicklow, has been living in Delvin since September with the four other members of his NET Team who are from Canada and the USA. Two other teams made entirely of internationals have preceded this team. In this, Anthony has a unique perspective as the first Irish person to serve in Delvin on a NET Team. Having also lived in Clifden, Co. Galway and having completed his Leaving Certificate in Dublin, Anthony has experienced life as a young Catholic in many parts of the country.

Even though it is a tiny place, Anthony says that Fr Seamus and the team put on lots of events; things that he only wishes had been available to him in his parishes while he was growing up.

He is impressed over and over again by the youth and their response to the Faith. One of his greatest joys has been witnessing the faith of a 19-year-old nominal Protestant, who decided last year that he wanted to become Catholic.

“Every week for the past five months, Andriano, my teammate, and I would meet with him to teach him the Faith and to pray with him, doing our best to journey with him and to help him in any way we can.

“It’s amazing how much Jesus has used us in the hour that we have with him every week – his desire to follow Jesus seems to grow even stronger every time we see him, so much so that now he’s trying to get to Mass every day for Lent!”

Fr Seamus, in response to why he has continually asked a NET team back into his parish, has simply said, “This is something that works.” The current team is now working with a core team of youth, training them to lead the youth groups and other events themselves.

As the year is quickly coming to an end, the team is sad to leave the tiny village because they will no longer have the blessing of journeying with these wonderful young people.

The NET Team has no doubt, however, that even after they are gone, these young people will continue to grow and will inspire others to do just the same.

*If you want to know more about how NET Ministries Ireland can help build a vibrant youth culture within your parish, call the office in Donegal on 074 9190606, or email office@netministries.ie