The evolution of NET in Canada

By  Vanessa Baker, Youth Speak News
  • August 28, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Fourteen years have passed since James Mikulasik took his training with NET Ministries in the United States and founded NET Canada.

Since then, NET (National Evangelization Team) Ministries of Canada has grown into several full-time travelling teams — of which one is now bilingual — several parish teams, an offshoot ministry in Ireland and a music and youth ministry training program.

“I felt a real call to bring it to Canada and have more young people in Canada experience it,” Mikulasik said.

Mikulasik has overseen quite the evolution of his ministry, but before starting NET Canada, he first worked as a missionary on a NET team in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1988.

Mikulasik then worked at NET Ministries headquarters in the United States, where he supervised two NET teams and organized discipleship weeks.

After that, he made the move back home. When NET Canada began in 1994, it consisted of only one team which travelled from coast to coast hosting retreats and evangelizing youth.

Last year, there were four travelling teams and its three parish teams were located in Toronto, Ottawa and Newfoundland.

Every year, parish teams work to establish youth ministry programs at a designated church. Each team has about 12 young people, aged 18-30. Because of the travel, NET ministers in 33 Canadian dioceses throughout the year.

The majority of participants on the NET Canada teams come from Canada, but there have been participants in the past from Australia, the United States, South Africa and New Zealand, to name a few.

“Our church is international,” Mikulasik said. “It’s nice to have an international flavour.”

For three months last year, NET Canada led several French retreats, mainly at French schools in Ontario.

Mikulasik said this new initiative has received nothing but positive feedback and there are plans to establish a travelling bilingual team that will provide English retreats from October to December this year, and French retreats from January to May. This year there will be three travelling teams and four parish teams.

Mikulasik, who is president of NET Canada, served as executive director at the national headquarters in Ottawa until July 1. He was replaced by Joe Vogel.

Until then, Mikulasik oversaw the entire program, including the travel and parish-based outreach teams, supervisors and administration. However, the hardest part of his job was usually spiritual, he said.

“My biggest challenge is listening to the will of God and then doing it,” Mikulasik said.

Mikulasik still serves on the board of directors for the NET chapter in Ireland, which he started in 2004 and spent a great deal of time at their offices in Letterkenny. NET Ireland became incorporated this year and will now operate with its own staff, although NET Canada is still training its members and will continue close ties with this mission offshoot.

Mikulasik said that the purpose of NET is to encourage youth to grow in relationship with God and love the church.

“Our mission statement states that our goal is to empower young people to love Christ and embrace the church,” he said. “It all starts with the encounter with Christ.”

Mikulasik said that prayer is one of the main focuses of NET and a way of keeping team members motivated. The other focus, a key aspect of all ministry, Mikulasik said, is music. He said that music is as a powerful medium for evangelization because young people respond to it. In the fall of 2005,

NET created Massive Worship, a program that promotes the development of Catholic musicians through workshops and conferences. NET uses music in its outreach, and many team members have gone on to record music through Massive Worship.

“NET is important because it’s one effective way of the church being able to reach out to young people,” said Mikulasik. “It’s not only the future of our church, it’s our church right now.

“My goal is to empower young adults to reach out to other young people,” he said.

(Baker, 19, studies journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

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