Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
NET ministry's passion revitalizes youth
Sacred Heart Parish opened hearts and doors to bring the charismatic evangelical team to their teens
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
WETASKIWIN - With no Catholic high school in Wetaskiwin and youth involvement at Sacred Hart Parish in decline, parishioners wanted to revive their evangelization to young people. A lack of money, however, seemed an insurmountable obstacle standing in the way of their goal.
National Evangelization Teams (NET), a youth-based ministry, hosted retreats in the winter of 2007 and spring of 2008. But some parishioners wanted a youth ministry that would stay longer than three or four days at a time.
Such a ministry comes at a price.
"I think every parish in rural Alberta, and probably in metro Alberta too, is seeing a decline in youth involvement," said Kelly Whalen, a school board trustee with St. Thomas Aquinas.
"So what I find NET Ministries brings to the table is that they empower the youth to come to church and understand church through the perspective of other youth leading the youth. They revitalize your youth community."
The parish sent in an application, and the NET Ministries team agreed to come out from Ontario for an interview. Unfortunately, the parish's budget committee said it could not afford their flights, so Maria Chrunik, with the Sacred Heart's NET team, called to cancel the interview.
"Seriously, I'm not kidding. When the Holy Spirit wants to do something, it gets done. We actually tried to stop this because we couldn't foresee having money in the bank for a $40,000 bill to have these kids out here," said Chrunik.
The next day, a member of the budget committee told Chrunik he couldn't sleep all night because he was bothered by the decision to cancel, and that they should go ahead with bringing in NET Ministries.
The Netters from Ontario said that although Chrunik had phoned to cancel, they still planned on coming to Wetaskiwin, that the Holy Spirit was calling them out there.
"We are really going in with zero dollars, and it's costing us $40,000 just to have them out here, plus another $10,000 to $15,000 just to sustain these kids here," said Chrunik.
Parishioners have donated money for this cause. They have also donated their homes temporarily, billetting the NET Ministries members for two-week stints until Christmas.
A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT
"Within two months, we raised almost $20,000 - a ridiculous amount of money that just came in to support this. People were donating office supplies to set up a back office here," said Chrunik.
Additionally, the Catholic Women's League gave $3,000 and the Knights of Columbus are donating half of the proceeds from their monthly pancake breakfasts. The parish youth group, Sacred Heart Fire, will continue with various fundraisers, such as perogy suppers and art sales.
"The parish has taken this by storm. They are extremely pumped and positive about this experience of evangelizing to the youth of our community," she said.
Sacred Heart Fire has between 20 and 30 junior high-aged members, but none from senior high.
A lot of Catholic families in Wetaskiwin, once their children reach high school age, bus them to the Catholic school in Leduc or transfer them to the public system.
"At a lot of Catholic parishes, the families choose to not send their kids to Catholic schools," said Whalen.
Having the Netters in the community is a method of reintroducing faith to these youth who have otherwise lost their connection with the Church.
The NET Ministries team arrived in Wetaskiwin Oct. 8. The team consists of two 19-year-old team leaders, Erica MacLean, from Dartmouth, N.S., and Marc Puigmarti, from Etobicoke, Ont. Also on the team are music leader Emma Fradd, 18, from Port Pirie, Australia; Marissa Banadyga, 18, from Saskatoon; Hannah Bouwman, 19, from Abbotsford, B.C.; and Joshua Meuse, 19, from Ottawa.
With six children of his own, a young boarder from Ponoka, and now two Netters staying with him, Whalen said that having nine youth makes for a dynamic home.
"They are very charismatic, and do a lot of praise through song and worship vocally. There's a different sort of passion among kids," he said.
Until the end of April 2010, the team will hold LifeTeen Masses every weekend, Confirmation retreats and actively evangelize at the town's K-9 school, Sacred Heart.
Working behind the scenes with Chrunik and Whalen is an administrative core group consisting of George Chrunik, Father Marc Cramer, Colleen Schultz, Sharon Maisonniuve, Leah Effert, Chris Kirwin and Janice Bilyk.
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