We the NET Retreat Team have had such a wonderful and blessed year. We have driven across the country twice, putting on retreats everywhere in between. We have had the opportunity to minister to almost 5,000 youth, and put on around 90 retreats. Through it all, God has worked to bring the youth closer to him.
One of the coolest retreats we ran was on a ranch in Sherwood Park, Alberta. The Lord did so many amazing things in the lives of the students, and they were able to build a lot of trust with us as we were able to spend so long with them. The location was amazing, and the students were really open to the faith. During the retreat, we had a time of confession, and many of the students lined up for a really long time to go to the Sacrament. It was so awesome to see the ways that God was working in big and small ways.
Another really beautiful retreat we ran was in Dawson Creek where we got to connect with the students a lot. The students were so welcoming and were so happy that we were there. They really opened their hearts to God and were receptive to what we had to share with them. At the end of our time there they wanted us to stay and wrote us a beautiful thank you card. It impacted us a lot, as we were able to see just a little bit of the fruits of our ministry.
At the beginning of the year, our team received the image of the Lion and the Lamb, especially through the song Lion by Elevation Worship. We saw our team as little lion cubs that would grow into big and capable lions by the end of the year. One way that we have seen that in our team and in our ministry is through our boldness. There are many different ways that we have had to be bold in proclaiming the gospel throughout the year. One of the ways is when we were in BC, a priest invited us at the end of Mass to pray for all of the youth who were at Mass. All of the youth stood at the front, and we were able to pray over them with the priest. It was so moving for us to see the faith in the parish, and to see all the young people who are the future of the church there.
We have also been able to see our team as a lamb in the ways that we have been gentle with students who were really struggling in their personal lives and in their faith. And also in how the team has had to sacrifice for the mission this year. There are so many sacrifices that the team has had to make in order for the mission to be successful, but the rewards are so worth it.
One of the ways that we have seen God working so much through us this year is in prayer ministry. For example, after having led a few retreats for High School youth in grades 10 and 11 in Simcoe ON, we were asked to come to the High School to do short presentations in the classes about what we do and to share a brief testimony of our Faith journey. During lunchtime, one of the youth from the retreats we led during the week came to see us. He was a guy from grade 11 who already had a strong Faith and, when we prayed over him during his retreat, had a powerful encounter with God. During that particular prayer time, he asked us to pray for his grandfather who was really sick, at the hospital, relying on breathing tubes and about to undergo surgery. However, during this school visit a few days later, he came to see us during lunchtime to tell us that his grandfather’s surgery went exceptionally well, even to the point that he was mostly healed and was discharged from the hospital to be sent back home. As it happened, the youth’s grandfather went into the operation room at precisely the same time as we started praying over the youth. As such, the student attributed his grandfather’s incredible recovery to our prayer.
The Lord has helped us to grow this year in holiness. We have grown so much through our team, and through all of the beautiful discussions that we have been able to have with each other. Living in community and on team has been such a wonderful experience, and it has helped us grow in our Catholic faith immensely. Having other people to call you higher, and who teach you so much about the faith is such an invaluable experience. We have also grown through prayer. We pray with each other every day, and it is from our team prayer that we receive graces to persevere in the mission. God has spoken to us through team prayer and brought us closer to God, and closer to each other.
The biggest thing that our team has learnt this year is how to rely on the Holy Spirit and each other, and not to rely on our own strength. There have been so many times that we feel like we are unable to help in a situation, but through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit we have seen real change happen. We are able to do such a limited amount, but it is God who works in people’s hearts. For example in one of our small groups, there was a youth who was rather disengaged from our activities during most of the day. He later told us that it was because something had happened in his life which made him not want to believe in God anymore. However, after the prayer time, he told us that felt like he could come back to the Faith. He asked for a commitment prayer card to put Jesus at the center of his life.
Thank you so much for journeying with us this year. We have had so much fun, and have grown so much. We have had the privilege of seeing the amazing things that Jesus is doing in the lives of so many youths.
Amy, Aoife, Cameron, Chris, Estelle, JF, Lucy, Sabin