Raising up the community

NET team find a welcoming reception to the faith

Kyle Greenham
Northern Light

The Catholic faith has been a solid source of strength for 19-year-old Christina Dunn. She says it’s what kept her strong at times when she saw her peers struggling.

So after graduating high school, Dunn wanted to find a way to share that faith with others. NET Canada provided the opportunity to do so.

“I was one of the only really practicing Catholics at my Catholic high school,” Dunn recalled. “And I was struggling with a lot of different things similar to my friends. But I think the reason I was able to do well and get through it was because of my faith.

NET team leader Christina Dunn

“So I wanted to share that faith with them, so that God could also help them and give them hope. But I didn’t quite know how to share it.

“I found NET was just a great way to share my faith and to share this love of the Lord that has changed my life. So right out of Grade 12 I applied.”

Dunn is part of the seven-member team of NET Canada who recently spent two weeks in the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan, March 14-25th, hosting retreats with students from Catholic schools in Grande Prairie, Sexsmith and Fairview.

NET (National Evangelization Team) is made up of young Catholic adults from around the world, who help engage young people in their Catholic faith through dynamic retreats and youth discipleship.

The NET team saw hundreds of students over their two weeks in our archdiocese last March.

This team is part of a school ministry based in Vancouver, BC, working in two private Catholic schools until the end of the 2022 school year. With classes on pause for two weeks over spring break, they arranged a trip to our region to expand their missionary efforts. NET Canada has brought teams and hosted retreats in the archdiocese in many previous years as well.

Students in Catholic schools across Grande Prairie, including St. John Paul II, St. Joseph’s, St. Clements, St. Kateri and Mother Teresa Catholic School, took part, as well as students at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Fairview and St. Mary’s Catholic School in Sexsmith. The retreats were mainly directed for students from Grade 7-10.

Holding two retreats each day, the NET members warm up the students with music, ice-breakers and games. Then they dive into their main spiritual message – on identity and discovering a relationship with God – that they hope will resonate with the students.

Overall, the team has found the students very receptive.

“Especially in the Grade 8s, they’ve been really willing to participate and engage in these kinds of conversations,” said Chris Pettapiece. Dunn and Pettapiece were the team leads for the NET group, which also included Theresa James, Gabby Douglas, Jessica Taylor, Gabriel Fortune and Monica Hartman.

NET Team members introduce themselves at the start of a retreat.

“The theme of our retreats is ‘The Underlying Truth’, which is to find your identity in God as opposed to what others say you are. To know that you’re first a son or a daughter of God,” Pettapiece continued. “They’ve been receiving it well. We have prayer time, when they have a chance to pray and we pray over them. And there’s been some real, we call them ‘mission moments’, where the students have some kind of encounter with God through that. They thank us for praying over them, saying it brought them peace, joy, or whatever.”

This gets to the heart of what the NET members hope the students gain from these retreats – an encounter with the Lord.

NET team leader Chris Pettapiece

This is only an excerpt. Read the full story in the April 2022 edition of Northern Light