NET Ministries of Canada is celebrating its 20 years with a thanksgiving Mass and gala. Photo courtesy of NET Ministries of Canada

NET Canada turns 20!

  • April 24, 2015

Twenty years of youth ministry is a big deal, which is why NET Ministries of Canada decided to celebrate the milestone with a year-long celebration.

“We’re no longer a teenager,” said executive director Joe Vogel. “For anything in youth ministry to be around for 20 years I think is a good reason for celebration.”

Over its 20 years of ministry, NET Canada has reached more than 30 dioceses and 20,000 young people across the country. Its mission is to reach out to young people to live for Christ.

Through its INFUSE program, NET ministry teams travel to schools and parishes across the country to help initiate local youth ministries. These teams station themselves in these communities for two years to train youth leaders and establish sustainable youth programs.

NET ministry also organizes a series of Encounter retreats for high school students, confirmandi, youth groups and young adult groups. They also organize youth rallies, men’s and women’s retreats and worship musicians’ workshops.

“We hope to change young people with the focus that it will change the family,” said Vogel. “You change the family, you change culture, you change society.”

The year of celebration began last summer with a barbecue and birthday party with about 300 people from the NET community in Ottawa.

“All the people who are connected with NET, we’ve heard a lot of people congratulating us this year and glorifying God for what He’s done for us,” said Heather Penney, development co-ordinator and main co-ordinator of the 20th anniversary celebrations.

“It’s been a sense of excitement and thanksgiving, especially for the staff.”

The celebration closes this summer with a 20th anniversary Mass and gala on June 4. Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and American Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, will be presiding over the Mass  at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa. The gala will be held at the Ottawa Conference and Events Centre.

That same weekend, NET Canada alumni missionaries are also invited to the “Did Something Amazing” alumni reunion from June 5 to 7. The weekend will officially close out the festivities with another barbecue.

Penney said NET has invited everyone connected to NET Canada, including missionaries, host families, volunteers, donors, alumni and of course, the youth it serves.

“We’ve never done anything like the gala,” said Penney. “Hosting the gala is like, let’s celebrate everything that has happened and how it’s touched the lives of young people. The gala is also a chance for us to look at the future we have in store.”

During the gala, Vogel will be releasing a new strategic plan for NET Canada. Since January, NET Canada has held focus group dinners for its communities across the country. The final report from these dinners will be released at the gala as the first Strategic Plan report for the year 2020.

“We had focus groups held in Cornwall, Calgary, in B.C., Saskatoon, Toronto area,” said Vogel. “Mostly, it wasn’t communities and it wasn’t churches. We asked those individuals who have kind of been stakeholders in our ministry, who have worked with us... some of them, for about 15 years, to give us special insight into our ministry.”

Vogel said the goal of these consultations was to listen to the needs in all the local areas and see what is working and what can be done to help youth ministry move forward. One thing he said the organization would like to look into would be how to train and embed youth ministers into more parish communities.

“Many of them are saying that there is a huge need to train people in youth ministry,” said Vogel. “The culture is that most parishes are looking for people who may want to volunteer in youth ministry... In that, we actually find that they have the heart, but they’re not qualified. They have the desire, but not necessarily the know-how.”

Vogel said to put more youth ministers into parish communities throughout the country, NET Canada has to help influence a change in culture. Vogel said that the NET team has to go into the parishes and show why it is important to hire a full-time youth minister who is equipped to sustain the parish’s youth program.

“There’s one thing to have an excited young person who is excited and wants to do something in their parish, but it’s another to have someone who is going to create a long-term stability in that parish,” said Vogel.

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