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High school teens spend weekend opening their lives to Christ

by Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic (5/18/2012)

VENICE – Bringing young people together to share in their faith can have a lasting impact for those who open themselves up to the loving Word of God.

For the second year in a row, high school youth gathered for a weekend retreat lead by members of NET Ministries (National Evangelization Team based in Minnesota). Nearly 100 young women and men represented seven different parish youth groups from throughout the Diocese of Venice.

The NET Retreat, held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, is just the latest youth activity in the Diocese, as more exciting Christ-centered activities are planned for the future, said Diocesan Youth and Young Adult Outreach Director George Smith. “The blessings of this weekend cannot be overstated,” he added. “A young man said that because of this retreat he was able to see that true joy comes from a relationship to Jesus Christ… That’s what events like this are all about!”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the group and encouraged the young women and men to open their hearts to Jesus and let the positive light that is Christ be a guide in their lives. Bishop Dewane also shared a meal with the group and offered words of encouragement to individuals and parish groups alike.

“You are the living Church of today,” Bishop Dewane said. “Take what you learned and carry the Holy Spirit with you as you move forward with your life. Let the Holy Spirit grow within you. Be aware that it can be easy to turn away from Jesus… use the strength of the Holy Spirit to fight it off. You will be rewarded by giving yourself to Jesus.”

During the retreat, the young women and men were separated and then those groups were split off into smaller teams. This was done to create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone while allowing each teen to get a full and enriching experience.

After more than 48 hours of non-stop spiritual activities, the young women and men were given the opportunity to stand up and reflect on their experiences of growing in deeper connection with Christ.

One young man explained how he went to retreat at a crossroads in his faith, but after just a few activities, some of which made him examine his own beliefs and views of the Church, he started to change his entire viewpoint.

Another young man explained that during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, time seemed to stand still. Tears flowed and he realized that he had been touched by the Holy Spirit. A young lady spoke about how the small group sessions helped her realize that she was around “Catholic teens who believe in the same things I do. This has really changed my entire outlook on my faith and brings me great peace knowing I am not alone.”

Throughout the weekend the NET members performed a variety of dramas (skits), which demonstrated real-world situations as well as life lessons on how to deal with others the way Jesus calls us to. The smaller groups competed in educational games, which tested their knowledge of the Faith in a fun and interesting way.

NET Ministries is an international youth ministry organization which fulfills its mission by: proclaiming the Gospel of Christ through a personal witness of Faith; inviting young people to live for Christ; forming young people in Christian character through the study and practice of their Faith; and equipping youth workers and young adults with the ministry skills needed for evangelization.

The young attendees were from St. William Parish in Naples, Epiphany Cathedral Parish in Venice, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, San Marco Parish on Marco Island, St. Leo Parish in Bonita Springs, St. Agnes Parish in Naples and St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples.

“Due to the success of the past two NET Retreats, the Diocese of Venice will be bringing the organization back twice next year,” Smith said. “They will be available to parish youth groups and will be doing day retreats at some of our Diocesan Schools.”

The NET Retreat is one of many ways our Diocese is reaching out to young people, Smith said. The annual Diocesan Youth Rally in the fall brings more than 900 teens together for a faith-filled day of Diocesan solidarity. There is also an annual Youth Mission Trip to St. Lucia in the summers, there is a Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day events; the next is set for Rio in 2013.

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