By Bob Reddy (Florida Catholic)
Eucharistic Adoration during a Lenten Retreat at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center changed the life of Grace Coronado in many ways, but most importantly in a spiritual way.
The retreat was led by a travelling National Evangelization Team (NET) which was invited to the Diocese of Venice to challenge the youth to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. Grace did this in a profound way. So moved by the powerful experience of the retreat she applied for and was eventually accepted as a travelling NET member for 2017-18.
‚ÄúThe retreat was great,‚ÄĚ Grace said after admitting she didn‚Äôt want to go with the groups of teens from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. ‚ÄúI had no idea what to expect, but I felt something unexpected. I found my calling; to share my faith with others.‚ÄĚ
Grace‚Äôs mother, Olivia Coronado, said she always knew her daughter was faith-filled and tried to encourage Grace and her siblings to grow closer to the Lord. ‚ÄúI told her, ‚ÄėYou have to do what the soul needs.‚Äô That is difficult for teens to understand and follow, but Grace stuck with it and here she is getting ready to share her faith with others like her.‚ÄĚ
A senior in Hardee County High School, Grace was one of many from across the country who applied for the 175 positions as a travelling NET member. She was then selected for an in-person interview at the NET home offices in Minnesota in December. Through the positive experiences of the visit, Grace knew it was where she had to be at this point in her life and received the good news not long after.
‚ÄúI feel blessed to be able to experience this journey,‚ÄĚ Grace explained. ‚ÄúThe support of my family and the inspiration of the Sisters at the Parish (Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matar√°) has really made a difference in my life.‚ÄĚ
Director of Religious Education at St. Michael Parish, Sister Gema Maria de Jesus Ruiz, SSVM, said ‚ÄúWe are very happy for her decision which I think is going to make her grow enormously, besides having a new NET missionary in the Church. She will also be a good example for her peers in our small town.‚ÄĚ
Grace realized during the retreat, and then later through the application process, that she has a much to share with others about her faith and her continuing journey to grow closer to the Lord. She has also been blessed with ability to relate to other teens about their own struggles with keeping Christ at the forefront of their lives, especially in a world where it is easy to be distracted and pulled farther away.
This summer, she will join 175 young Catholics aged 18-28 who will leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization Teams. Divided into 16 teams, they travel across the U.S. for nine months to share the Gospel with young people and their families. Since 1981, NET teams have led over 30,000 retreats and ministered to more than 1.8 million young Catholics. Grace will be joining Alexandra Raczka of San Pedro Parish who is returning to serve a second year with NET after taking a year off.
NET Ministries 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.
During a NET retreat, which take place regularly within the Diocese of Venice, there are large and small group sessions and they are later divided into even smaller male and female teams. These small groups allow for a more personal connection and guidance from NET team members and offers the youth the opportunity to be more comfortable about sharing their faith. Large group sessions include the performance of dramas, which are reenactments of real-life scenarios which challenge one‚Äôs faith. There is also fun and games. The core sessions also include talks, Mass, and the opportunity for the youth to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
To prepare for her journey, Grace, who is a good singer, has been taking guitar lessons thanks to the assistance of a parishioner at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. While nervous to be going away from home for such a long period of time, she knows she is prepared to handle it and is getting excited to go.
As part of her acceptance into the program, she had to commit to raising $8,000. Early efforts included holding a car wash and her mother helped create and distribute taco salads to businesses in the area. Grace must continue raising additional monies so a fund has been established as donations are being handled through the Sisters at the Parish.
If you would like to help Grace reach her dream of being a NET member, send checks to the Sister Servants of the Lord, C/O Grace Coronado NET Fund, 409 Alice St., Wauchula, FL 33873.