October 30 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Casting the NET

— AMANDA CONNELLY explains how NET MINISTRIES hopes that its recently set-up branch in Scotland has big plans in the months and years ahead

Since the introduction of the Pope Benedict XVI Caritas Award in 2011-12, Scotland’s young Catholics have been afforded greater opportunity to bear testament to their Faith, and to be recognised for these efforts. An award that has been instrumental in promoting faith witness, it is apt that featured at this year’s Caritas Awards ceremony was NET Ministries—a worldwide organisation committed to encouraging young Catholics to embrace their faith and share the Gospel with and through young people. This year, NET Ministries embarks on its first year with its own Scottish division, NET Scotland.

Founded by Mark Berchem in 1981 in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, NET (National Evangelisation Teams) has seen more than 29,000 retreats sharing the Gospel message to over 1.7 million young Catholics around the world. Starting its humble, yet enthusiastic, beginnings with a team of 12 young people, they travelled across southern Minnesota in a van, carrying out a substantial 18 high school retreats over a three-week period. With the evangelisation retreats proving to be resounding success, three additional teams were instituted in Winona, North Dakota and South Dakota, and NET’s primary year-long missionary team was sent out on the road.

Deriving inspiration for both its name and work from St Mark and St Luke’s Gospels—“Come after me, I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17) and “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4)—NET Ministries has answered the call for growing demand and expanded to become the global movement it is today. Continuing its peer-lead mission to spread the Word of God with other young people across the world, it invites young Catholics to learn about their relationship with God and helps them to form their faith. It is truly international, with NET teams serving as far afield as Australia, Canada, Germany, Guam, Honduras, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Uganda and the United States.


The year 2015 marks the inaugural year of NET Scotland, having previously piloted two years of teams from NET Ireland. Whilst maintaining close ties with its Irish counterparts in training and team selection, the group is branching out as a charity in its own right, booking retreats and organising the teams’ ministry from its base in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.

As Scotland becomes the latest addition to NET’s global community, Emily McNulty, full-time staff member at NET Scotland, speaks about the aims and work of the charity.

“We want to reignite the Catholic Faith in Scotland,” she said. “Our hope and our dream is that every person in Scotland would know the love of Jesus and know it personally.”

It is with this desire to revive the Catholic Faith in the lives of a younger Scottish population that NET Scotland carries out its mission, one that is rewarding yet surely not without its challenges for the young evangelists. After selection to a NET team via application and interview, the NET Scotland missionaries receive five to six weeks of training in Ireland, where their supervisors are based. They spend the duration of their first week on retreat to explore their personal relationship with God, before being divided into groups of men and women. Shortly after they are assigned to one of two teams —the road team or local team—where they learn the tools of evangelisation before beginning their ministry.

The road team, in which a number of NET missionaries travel from parish to parish, spend the majority of their days going into schools to conduct encounter days, or retreats, for groups of students. Through the use of a number of evangelisation tools including prayer, music, personal faith sharing, games and dramas, they aim, as Emily described to us, ‘to share the message of the Gospel, and they trust God to let those seeds grow. Then they go to the next place.’

Meanwhile the local team remain in a parish for the duration of their time with NET, this year stationed in Renfrew.

“They spend the whole time that they’re with NET for the year in one place,” Ms McNulty said. “Building up relationships, building disciples.”

Working with the students of Trinity High School in Renfrew, they hope to start a youth ministry amongst the five parishes feeding into the school.

While leaving their family, friends, work and even their mobile phones—a seemingly inconceivable item to part with in today’s plugged-in world—and setting out on their nine-month long ministries may perhaps sound daunting, it is a memorable, enjoyable experience for both missionaries and school pupils alike, drawing individuals from all walks of life.

“I went to college for a couple of years and it just felt like such a pressure, a rush from finishing secondary school,” Sarah Stoehr from New Orleans, who will shortly begin her second year of ministry in Scotland, said. “I needed to take some time to figure out who I was as a person outside of my personal peer group.”

It was at this point Sarah decided to do mission work.

“I wanted to find out who I was as person, as a young Catholic,” she added.

Emily too served on a NET team before becoming full-time NET Scotland staff. Native to Canada, she was first inspired to join NET at eight years old, after two missionaries stayed in her family home when visiting her parish. Returning to the thought of her younger self upon leaving high school, she applied and was accepted as a NET missionary. A pivotal point for her was realising the impact of her role on the lives of the young people she met and worked with.

“I remember when I was on a NET team I had a small group of students, and at the end of the day one of the girls came up to me and said ‘you know, I didn’t know that Jesus loved me. I didn’t know I had a relationship with him and if I had known that, the choices I would’ve made in my life so far would’ve been so different. I’m so glad I know that now, and I want to live my life for God,’” Emily said. “I remember when she said that to me I just realised this is not just something I can give only a year of my life to: this is a mission and I want to be involved because there are so many young people all over the world who could say that.”


Despite the vast number of retreats NET Ministries holds throughout the year and the profound impact they have had on the lives of young people worldwide, the group maintains that their retreats are free of charge, relying solely on the kindness of donations and monies raised via fundraising efforts to cover costs.

“They’re all non-profit charities. NET Ireland, which is where our teams come from, is funded through just the support of people who care about our missionaries,” Ms McNulty added. “Our missionaries all fundraise, so they write letters, they speak in parishes and they ask people to participate in the mission by supporting them financially.”

“People can donate if they would like to, but nothing that we do is for profit,” she added.

With its peer-to-peer method of evangelisation, NET has proven to be unique and successful in its approach, effectively sharing the Word of God and the Catholic faith to those of high school age. Schools can arrange encounter days and have retreats planned for them by simply e-mailing retreats@ netscotland.org, as can young people who want to give a year to serve on a team, who are supported closely whilst deciding if NET is right for them.

“It’s a great thing to get involved in for anyone who is in a relationship with God and wants to do something about it,” Emily said. “It’s a great thing for people to do if they’re looking for a gap year, if they’re not sure what they want to do when they finish school, or they just want an adventure or they want travel—there’s so many great things about it.”


—To find out more visit NET Scotland’s website: http://www.netscotland.org, like them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/netscotland and follow them on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/netscotland



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