CATHOLIC REGISTER PHOTO | CAROLYN GIRARD
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast gave his blessing to the young NET missionaries before they leave for their mission.
After 18 years of evangelizing youth across Canada, National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries has finally taken hold in Quebec.
Seven youth, aged 18 to 20, will devote the next eight months to missionary work at Saint-Louis-de-France Parish in Terrebonne, Quebec.
They hope to bond with parishioners who will billet them in their own homes and lay the foundations for an active youth ministry while sharing the Good News and drawing people into a personal relationship with Christ.
"It is an amazing opportunity to be in Quebec and it is certainly missionary territory," said Joe Vogel, executive director for NET.
NET Ministries already has several English-speaking youth missionary teams across Canada.
Vogel said, "Les equipes NET," the French-speaking branch of NET, began several years ago as a travelling team which spent one to two weeks in various francophone communities.
He likens the visits to planting a seed of faith, but in Terrebonne that seed will now be watered and given ample sunshine.
The parish team will spend almost a year getting to know the community and its social reality, forming friendships, identifying the needs and wants of the faithful.
It aims to organize a youth group, retreats, prayer events, anything to be effective in reaching people's hearts for Christ. Essentially, the team is there to serve, responding wholeheartedly to the call for new evangelization, after a summer of training.
"We're praying that it works and we are going to do the best that we can," said Vogel. "Success would be witnessing the Gospel to young people and seeing lives changed."
The community at Saint-Louis-de-France was eagerly anticipating the NET team's arrival this month.
The NET Ministries' Commissioning Mass, happened when Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast gave his blessing to the young missionaries who will scatter across Canada this year.
None of the team members come from Quebec, but all are eager to explore the new mission territory and brush up on language skills at the same time.
"It's a little intimidating, and humbling, but very exciting," admits Kaylene McQuaid, originally from North Battleford, Sask. "I took French from kindergarten until Grade 12, but I kind of took it for granted, and now I see there was definitely a reason why I took French."
Charles Turner, a team member from Alberta, is honoured to live out the new evangelization in uncharted territory.
"We're really coming out of our comfort zone," he said.
In addition to Quebeckers, the NET missionaries will be working directly with five missionary priests from France, members of the Community of Saint John, which was founded in 1975. The religious community of brothers began sending its priests to Quebec 16 years ago.
Father Marie Elie joined his brethren in Canada five years ago, with the task of finding the means to breathe life into the faith lives of the youth.
Little by little, the priests have been creating opportunities for the youth of their parish to grow in faith and are preparing to send a group to the next World Youth Day. But NET seemed like the answer to their prayers, to give their ministry a boost.
"It is a beautiful opportunity to have young people who are equipped to encounter and engage young Quebeckers," Elie said.
"The culture is a difficult one to penetrate, and a difficult one to connect with. We know that to succeed in the task we need help to show young Quebeckers that faith is not dead and the Gospel can be a beautiful part of their lives."