Imelda Hartnett gives an insight into the life of ministry
Most days I would wake up not knowing what the day ahead would look like. Every couple of mornings I would wake up in a different bed, a different house, heading off to a school I’ve never been to before. I never thought this unusual lifestyle would be how I would spend nine months of my past year when I was 19.
NET is a Catholic Non-profit Organization focused on Youth Ministry and inviting young people to learn, love and embrace the life of the Church. It is in several countries; Canada, Ireland, U.S.A, and Australia. I spent my time as a missionary on NET Canada.
Each NET shares the same mission and core values, but it works a little differently in each country, as obviously each country has a different cultural vision on what the ministry itself should look like.
NET is an acronym; National Evangelisation Teams. There are travelling teams that go from place to place staying in different homes and families every couple of nights and there are local teams that stay in one location for a year and build relationships with people in the area. On NET, there are teams of about seven to 12 people that go into schools and parishes and put on retreats for young people usually from the ages of 12-18.
A retreat day has: talks, testimonies, dramas, activities and a time of small groups. This is where the kids have a chance to discuss, talk and reflect about the theme for the day or just talk about God in general with the small group leader, who is a member of the NET team.
We do our best to create an environment where people feel safe to share their opinions and beliefs without feeling judged or criticised. Towards the end of the day there is also a time of prayer, where they are invited to take time to pray. Throughout the whole day we encourage the youth to participate in all the activities and things that go on but it is really up to them how much they want to participate. The idea is that they are welcome to join, not forced.
There is usually a theme for the day too, whether it’s a confirmation class then we focus on talking about the Holy Spirit or sometimes if it’s an older class we talk about why we have decided to put God in the center of our lives as opposed to not wanting Him in it. Often times these days, young people aren’t encouraged or given an opportunity to experience time in prayer by other young people, at the retreat we get the chance to do that.
Obviously on the team, there are people from all over with completely different stories to share about how God has impacted their lives, which is what makes NET such a beautiful ministry. Young people who share the same core values and beliefs but come from completely different walks of life and wanting to share that with others.
I’m from Wicklow but decided to apply for NET Canada because I’d never been to anywhere outside of Europe, and Canada seemed like a beautiful place to go. Anyone who is between the ages of 18-30 can apply for NET in any country.
A lot of my friends were not sure what they wanted to study in University but were going anyway because they felt it was the only option they had or they were expected to straight out of 6th year, but I didn’t really want to go to university before I was sure on what I wanted to study, so I decided to take a gap year and do NET.
I am so grateful for the time I served with NET Canada. The first time I heard of NET was when a team came to my school and put on a retreat for a class of students. I remember thinking how bizarre it was for young people to be spending their time going into schools and sharing their faith with others. I definitely was not living out a Catholic lifestyle as I grew up, except for going to mass on Sundays.
My favorite thing about being on NET was that I developed a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, which I had never had before, and often wondered if it was really possible. Travelling and seeing so many beautiful places and wonderful people with nine other people who by the end of it, felt like my second family. I honestly have never experienced anything like that. On NET Canada alone, over 20,000 youth have the opportunity through our teams to experience and understand God. Last year of that number, 91% of youth said they felt closer to God as a result of the retreat they had with NET.
For more information about NET, see https://www.netcanada.ca/en/