NET Ministries has started TableTalk small-group religious discussions with Canadian youth. Pictured here are the missionaries being trained to lead these Zoom video meetings. Photo courtesy of Cameron Turner

NET Ministries marches on

By  Sarah Wentzell, Youth Speak News
  • May 13, 2020

Before COVID-19 essentially shut the world down in the middle of March, the young adult missionaries who serve National Evangelization Teams (NET) Canada were fully immersed in sharing the message of God’s love with Catholic youth at live retreats across the country.

The 2019-20 plans for each of the eight retreat teams working for the Catholic organization — which turns 25 this year — involved travelling more than 20,000 kilometres over 10 months to present 125 face-to-face events to Grade 6-12 students. Then COVID-19 hit and the missionaries — men and women between the ages of 17 and 30 — were pulled off the road for their protection.

But just as one journey ended, another began.

The organization quickly adapted to provide online resources for youth, including the creation of TableTalk, a video conferencing initiative bringing together small groups of high school students to help them find strength in God during the pandemic and develop a personal connection with Christ.

“Young people want to feel a connection and to live for more,” said Discipleship Ministry co-ordinator Cameron Turner. “The COVID-19 virus makes them feel confused and powerless. NET’s TableTalk small group program provides a connection with each other and a solid role model.”

The inspiration to begin TableTalk was need and opportunity, and a desire from the NET missionaries to continue their evangelization work, said Turner.

“The need: most young people lose their faith by the time they graduate high school. The opportunity: most people are at home with some spare time. Similarly, our NET missionaries were sent home early, and they had an abundance of time and desire to do something meaningful.”

Although TableTalk has only been running since April, Turner said the response has been enthusiastic, and support has been readily available.

“I put (the word out) on Facebook, asking if someone would sponsor our Zoom video communication needs. It costs $45.20 to purchase a Zoom account to be able to run TableTalk for the length we need. When I came back from lunch, I had raised double what we need and I raised even more after. It’s not much, but it shows how excited people are getting about this (initiative).”

Turner said that each member of the NET retreat teams is well equipped to oversee the intimate religious TableTalk discussions. Each of these missionaries “has received over 600 hours of solid Catholic formation in spirituality, community life and mission.”

However, TableTalk has been facing some hitches along the way. Turner says the virtual platforms have posed difficulties with communication, and relying on online media platforms can cause the information to get buried.

“Clear communication is hard. Everything is virtual, and so much gets lost in translation via text message or conference calls. I believe there is more good going on out there than I am aware of due simply to the difficulty of me hearing about it.”

If you are interested in learning how to get involved in TableTalk, email NET Canada at info@netcanada.ca.

NET Canada is also reaching its audience daily on Facebook (facebook.com/NETCanada) by having a youth missionary share some reflections about the Mass readings for that day.

(Wentzell, 16, is a Grade 11 student in Seton Home Study School in Thunder Bay, Ont.)

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