The Castro family of Narragansett hosted three of the NET girls this year, their second time hosting a NET team.
“It is an awesome experience to meet new people, invite them to be part of our family life and show them around South County including visits to Iggys and Brickleys,” said Diane Castro. “The fondest memories of hosting Netters are enjoying home cooked meals with them and the evening jam sessions with the host families and NET team. We look forward to hosting more teams in the future.”
The Craig family from St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Wakefield, said that it felt like the young missionaries were a part of the family.
“It was an enjoyable and fulfilling experience meeting a group of faith-filled young people,” said Tina Craig. “It is extraordinary that after seven months traveling in a van and sleeping on floors, they are so cheerful and never complain.”
Dan Mahoney, 24, knows first hand how powerful the experience of NET is and he was happy to share what he learned with his parish. Mahoney first learned of NET in the third grade when his parents hosted a team at a U.S. naval base in Germany. Mahoney served as a team leader for NET from 2007-2008.
“I absolutely loved NET,” he said. “It was nice to truly be a missionary. You give up the comforts that you get used to and when you just have a backpack, sleeping bag and suitcase you learn what you truly need. You get a lot closer to God and rely on him and your teammates in hard times. My prayer life changed 1,000 percent.”
Returning home from NET was difficult, Mahoney explained, remembering the challenge of adjusting back into everyday life.
“You go from such a group of positive people where everybody is striving for that same goal of growing holier,” he shared. “To come back into the world where that’s not always what’s going on was hard. I have to make sure I set that prayer time for me. Even that means waking up 45 minutes early. It has to be a priority.”
Dan’s mother, Carol Mahoney said that NET challenged her son to be a leader in his faith.
“Some people join the military, some go to NET,” she said. “In some ways, it’s the same-you get up at 5 a.m. and off you go. We were excited when he said he wanted to do NET. It was the greatest thing in the world for him.”
Teammates learn what it means to truly love and to truly be loved. And most often, it is not the ministry skills that the young people notice on a NET retreat, but the love that the team members have for one another. According to NET, about 15 percent of NET team members seriously discern a religious vocation after serving.
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“Over 50 NET alumni have been ordained as priests, over 30 are living as religious sisters, and dozens are currently in the seminary or religious formation,” said Berchem. “Of course, the vast majority pursues the vocation of marriage and enters into strong Catholic marriages where many would say, ‘I learned to love on NET.’”
Printed with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.