I spent my first year as a NET Missionary, with a parish team based in Brooklin, Ontario at St. Leo The Great Parish. We were moving in with different families from the parish community every two weeks and evangelizing the young people of those families as well as the students at 5 surrounding Catholic schools. We were a band for the Saturday evening youth Mass, leading youth nights every Tuesday & Thursday, and opened up our office for socials, formation and a space to chat on weekends.
The following year I joined the Mission Staff Program in Ottawa and was part of the Development Team as 1 of the 2 Media Assistants. I was ready to serve this ministry through social media, to play a role in engaging our stakeholders and helping with NET events! While living in an intentional household, receiving formation and establishing a community in the city of Ottawa. The biggest curveball that happened to me/us that year was Covid-19. You can just imagine the massive shift that had on me and my department as the ministry was now online.
In my third and fourth years, I continued in the Mission Staff Program, however, I moved to the Programs Department and became a Team Supervisor. What an absolute privilege to be able to supervise 4 NET Teams during a very new and unprecedented reality. A lot had happened since I was in my own NET Team, we were navigating ministry in the middle of a pandemic, and the same outcomes were to be executed differently; with covid protocols, government regulations and a global-wide lifestyle shift. What a mental, emotional and physical challenge to us all, but I am so grateful to have been anointed these times with NET and to be able to witness the creativity and adaptability of my co-workers and our missionaries!
Since saying goodbye to the world of NET and now integrating myself back into life back home in Australia, there are definitely life lessons that are helping me live a better, more fruitful and purposeful life and I’d love to share a few (but not limited to).
Self Awareness is a gift to others
Throughout my time I experienced a lot of inner healing. The Lord really does not call the equipped but equips the called and I am a living example of this. Yes, it’s good to know yourself and to live whole and know your own gifts, talents and triggers… and that will surely set you up for success in the future. What we need to know as well though, is how much it serves the people around us. By knowing your strengths better you are able to contribute well and abundantly, and by humbly accepting your weaknesses you are able to ask for mercy when you fall short, seek help to grow and celebrate others. When doing ministry with a NET Team (and in many other ministry settings), it’s so important to have self-awareness. It’s really not about you and what role you get, but it’s about the people you are ministering to, and them receiving the absolute best version of your team. Between me and my co-leaders throughout the years, it was so important to recognize how to share the mission work. Sometimes it meant taking the tasks we received life from or jumping into discomfort with someone to support you. My journey of self-awareness also required patience, correction, forgiveness and encouragement from myself and from the people around me. To anyone who was part of that, you know who you are, thank you for that!
Flawed and Gifted
We are simultaneously both and what a reality worth celebrating! For so long I felt shame in the ways I lacked or ways that I felt different. I would wonder why I wasn’t as naturally gifted in decision-making, remembering key information, and logical thinking. I used to question my hospitality because I wouldn’t serve my guest’s water upon arrival. As a team leader and supervisor, there were situations where I was required to make decisions under pressure, where bad decisions were made but also good ones which taught me a whole other lesson in growth and how sometimes we need to be thrown into situations that call us out of ourselves to realize that we can actually do it! It’s frustrating not being “perfect” at times, especially when others’ lives/souls/emotions are in your care… but we also need to remember that we are not created to be islands, or bionic. We are made to sometimes rely on others and/or take risks and check our resilience. We are complementary beings. Some people are natural Marys, some are natural Marthas. Our Saints were flawed and gifted, and were fully alive in both!
Your story heals
I gave up counting the people I’ve shared my story with after about a month in! I can’t count how many times I would share my own story and experience moments of healing as I was saying things in real time. How liberating it felt to have someone cry with you, laugh with you, accept you and celebrate victories with you. I also can’t explain the feeling of hearing someone else tell their story and the gift it was to be that person who was there to be with them in their mess, share a new perspective, or celebrate their breakthroughs! One of the beautiful things about sharing stories is being united with others in our brokenness, it gave me permission to embrace the unfiltered version of myself. Host Home Ministry was one of my favourite things on NET for the stories I got to hear from so many families; from love stories and conversion stories to funny childhood memories. I have learned from other people’s mistakes and others from mine. I have felt empowered through people’s success stories. What a beautiful reality, that our lives are made to be intertwined with one another in this interactive way.
We all ache to be seen, known and loved
I truly believe that we are all constantly living in reaction to either two things: 1. We feel seen, known and loved or 2. We feel unseen, unknown and unloved. Joyful people, angry people, confident people, bitter people, merciful people… What I’ve also realized is that the people in our lives that we allow or do not allow to see, know and love us will impact us for the better or for the worse. I have, however, learned through my own relationships and through witnessing other ones be tested: we are complex beings and are broken people trying to do our best who will still fail one another. There is a difference between how we feel loved by others vs seeing objectively the ways that others love us the best they can, and that there are 1000 different ways that people show love and perceive love or a lack of it. It’s a whirlwind and a constant life lesson to master, but knowing this allows me to be more merciful, and a very necessary truth that helped me personally in my ministry throughout the years. In the conversations that I had in school cafeterias, youth events, and small groups… It was my anchoring truth to listening well.
We are too limited to understand everything
Everything had a purpose. I knew that, but I didn’t always feel that. Since coming home, I’ve been reading through all my journals in order, from the day I arrived. It has been a ride!! I feel like I’m reading a book for the 2nd time. There are moments when I have to pause and cry for the future me in prayers that were never answered the way that I wanted. Other times, I am rooting for her because I know how it ends and I know why things needed to happen the way they did. Other times, I am reliving some completely joyful seasons and just grow exponentially in gratitude again! This has truly shaped me in my present mysteries. To know that the same God has me, even when I don’t understand. I have also been able to realize the graces to be attained in every moment. I remember fearing future goodbyes, the fear of no longer being with some of my best friends. It happened, I never dodged the moment, but I did receive the graces to live it. It’s true, we really have no business worrying about the future. We can plan and predict our future, but I highly recommend also allowing life to happen and letting the Lord’s plans take the lead on our own.
To actually have an attitude of gratitude
There were so many cliches that I hated hearing sometimes, and moments where I would find myself giving advice with cliches I couldn’t believe I was using… Nothing good ever comes easy, you need an attitude of gratitude, love until it hurts, and there is joy in suffering!… only to name a few. Especially when it’s not what you want to hear but would rather prefer your feelings to be validated no matter how unreasonable… but what a privilege I would feel in moments where these cliches actually made sense to me, deeply. Opportunities to live them out and understand why they became famous sayings to begin with. Songs that hit differently because now you know what it means to you personally. That person that you loved until it literally hurt, but it was so worth it. That cross you could no longer carry, until somehow you were carrying it. The ability to see your blessings amidst a painful season. That moment when “God’s Love is free” was an insanely profound truth of divine mercy and unlimited graces… and it hit differently. Ministry, people, community, pursuing holiness… it comes with a whole lot of living in and trying to believe in cliches.
Remain in Him
Stay close to the Lord in all seasons. My faith has truly saved me in some deeply desolate times. Especially for myself who was in this ministry because of God alone. So if my daily decisions were no longer in His best interest, or it was too much about me… then all the more reason to re-direct, and stay close to the better part of me. Prayer and Faithfulness were my fuel, my superpower during my years in this radical ministry, and thank the Lord it was not me doing it with my own strength.
My time with NET has been so very blessed; I have received tenfold from giving these years of mission to young people and the missionaries! Not only did this transformation happen to me, but through my own growth, I was able to journey with others in theirs. Don’t get me wrong, some lessons had to be learned in ugly and flawed ways, there were tiring ministry days, and my days weren’t always as fun as my Instagram account made it seem. I fell, I complained, felt rejected and there were so many curveballs and ruined plans, but what an adventure nonetheless; I like to believe that I have become a better human being because of all of it.
-written by Faith Estera, alumnus