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Catholic Vancouver Jul 21, 2017

Young NET missionary plans return to Ireland

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Courtney Doucette has just come back from a nine-month trip to Ireland, and she’s already packing her bags to fly back at the end of July. (Sara Dmitri / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

MAPLE RIDGE—Youth missionary Courtney Doucette is back from a year-long trip to Ireland, and she’s about to go right back again.

“It was an incredible experience. I got to see amazing things happen through prayer and teaching about Jesus. I also got to grow a lot,” said Doucette, a member of NET Ministries and St. Luke’s Parish.

NET (National Evangelization Teams) aims to boost the faith of young people by training missionaries aged 18-30 and sending them to run retreats, events, and youth ministries in various cities.

Doucette was fresh out of post-secondary school with a degree in music and theology in her hand when she applied to join NET in 2016. “I first heard about them when they came to my church years ago.”

When she was a young teen, Doucette was known among her peers as a Catholic but was very shy about discussing her faith. That changed after she met a few NET missionaries during retreats they held in her Maple Ridge community.

These retreats encouraged me to stay in my faith. When I was looking for stuff to do after university, that’s what I wanted to do: give back what these people did for me.
Courtney Doucette

“These retreats encouraged me to stay in my faith. When I was looking for stuff to do after university, that’s what I wanted to do: give back what these people did for me.”

She graduated in April 2016, applied for NET in June, went through six weeks of training, and was on a plane for her first mission assignment in Ireland by August.

“I was really excited to go to Ireland! It’s a place I always wanted to go.”

Doucette, two other Canadians, and two Irish missionaries made up a team of five. Together they ran youth groups, hosted faith studies on university campuses, shared their testimonies to confirmation classes, and led one-day retreats.

“One of my favourite things to do was retreats. The kids would be out of school for the day, and by the end of the day they didn’t want to leave. They would learn things about God they didn’t realize before.”

Doucette runs a confirmation retreat for Irish youth. (Sara Dmitri / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

The team’s home for the year was a Dominican priory in Cork City, Ireland. Doucette returned to Maple Ridge this summer, but is preparing to pack her bags and return for a second year July 30.

“It was encouraging for us when parents approached us with gratitude for the positive changes they saw in their children,” she said.

At one retreat, the team was unable to find a priest to offer confession, but they shared testimonies with Irish teens about the importance of the sacrament. The following week, when a priest was available, they were surprised to find 80 out of 92 students lined up for confession.

“Seeing what a difference it’s made this year in the lives of the kids, I wanted to consider going back,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of skills this past year; I’m hoping to use them again.”

About 50 NET missionaries travel to Ireland every year to reach about 20,000 young people through connections with churches and schools.

“Ireland has had Catholic faith longer than Canada has been a country, but at the moment it’s literally being held by a thread,” said Joe Vogel, executive director of NET Canada and co-founder of NET Ireland.

“They have Catholic schools and churches, but very few Catholic young people go to Mass on a regular basis.”

Vogel said sending missionaries under age 30 to reach teens who have stopped going to church is the organization’s “secret sauce.”

“Young people hearing other young people talk about Christ in their lives is very powerful.”

NET has been running Catholic youth ministries and retreats in Ireland since 2008. The non-profit also sends missionaries to the United States, Australia, Scotland, and Uganda.

For more information visit netcanada.ca/en.