A team of local missionaries is hoping to spend less time fundraising and more time in the field thanks to funding they’ll be receiving through Project Advance.

Seven young adults with the National Evangelization Team are leading praise and worship services, retreats, and other evangelization events for children and teens across the Lower Mainland. Now a grant from the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Project Advance campaign is going to help them with their audio-visual needs and transportation.

It’s a big help, according to western program coordinator Jean Paul de Fleuriot.  “Support from Project Advance has really helped us, in a practical way, to share the Gospel with more young people,” said de Fleuriot.  

It’s the second year the NET team is receiving a Project Advance grant. Last year, the missionaries – who might travel from Langley to North Vancouver to Delta in a single day – received a $15,000 grant to buy a staff van.

This year’s grant will cover the cost of buying new audio-visual equipment, a piano keyboard, and a trailer to carry their supplies.

“We are missionaries first,” said de Fleuriot. “We will share the Gospel with or without a sound system; we want young people to have an opportunity to encounter Jesus, respond to him, and live for him.”

But that becomes difficult when the team must rely on the various audio-visual systems of schools they visit – which often leads to technical problems – or use the one speaker and microphone they currently own – which is not practical when they lead praise and worship with a full band.

“We’d like to have something that’s effective and that we can rely on,” which means having their own portable audio-visual equipment, said de Fleuriot.

A NET missionary leads an event at a local high school.

De Fleuriot now works in NET administration, but he remembers hitting the road as a young NET missionary in 2002. His team did not have a sound system; they just used their own vocal chords, a guitar, and song lyrics written on giant pieces of cardboard and held up for the students to sing along.

But that approach doesn’t work anymore. “We’re living in an age where society has invested so much in technology and they’re vying for young people’s attention,” he said.

“More and more, things are getting professional in the ways they are marketing to young people. If we come along and we’re not professional in the ways we’re presenting ourselves, they won’t take us seriously.”

The students they minister to live in “a visual culture,” he said. “When we’re on a retreat and we can show a video on a projector and have the sound coming out clearly, that they can understand the Gospel message in a way they can relate to is very important.”

Most of NET’s budget – about two-thirds – comes from personal fundraising efforts by missionaries and staff; the other third comes from the fees they charge for retreats and other programming.

Without the Project Advance grant, de Fleuriot said he’d have to put many hours into organizing an extra fundraiser and hoping these needs, over and above their regular operating costs, would be covered.

“We’re very grateful we can be the diocese’s hands and feet in the schools, sharing the Gospel with young people.”
Jean Paul de Fleuriot

“We’re very grateful we can be the diocese’s hands and feet in the schools, sharing the Gospel with young people. We’re all on the same team,” he said.

A NET missionary during a youth event in Vancouver.

The 2019 Project Advance campaign – the archdiocese’s annual appeal – officially launches April 6 with Archbishop Miller and longtime supporters at St. Patrick’s Parish. Most parishes will host local their launches by April 28.

“The education of our young people has to be a priority,” Archbishop Miller said in a video message about the 2019 Project Advance appeal.

“We operate on two levels: on one hand, the more strictly educational level and the academic, intellectual formation through schooling and prep; but also in other ways, providing other activities so (young people) can become more involved in the life of the Church and seize the Gospel for themselves.”

Chris Ufford, the archdiocese’s Director of Development, said this year’s campaign theme is focused on reaching out to teens and young adults – the “Catholic leaders of tomorrow.”

Project Advance has raised more than $7 million each year for the last four years. The annual campaign raises funds for the Secondary Schools Construction Fund and New Parish Sites Fund, as well as for various archdiocesan ministries including hospital chaplaincy, social justice efforts, youth and young adult ministry, evangelization, and family life programs.

A portion is earmarked for special grants. Alongside NET, two other ministries aimed at serving young people are named for 2019: Signal Hill’s Value Project Conference and Catholic Christian Outreach. Other non-profit organizations that serve the abused, disabled, ill, and addicted will also receive special grants.

This year’s goal is to raise $3.25 million for all those funds and grants, unchanged from last year. Any monies above that goal will remain in individual parishes with the funds serving local needs, such as renovations or ministries. 

More information on the annual appeal, including a full breakdown of where the funds go, is available at www.rcav.org/project-advance.

NET missionaries study a Bible.