If your experience has been like mine, faith has been more a personal matter between God and me. Through my years as a Catholic layman, priest and now bishop, I have a much deeper understanding of the importance to know, love and serve God through study, prayer and sharing my faith with others. I have learned to receive and share what God intends for others.
As I look back on my life I am grateful for those wonderful examples in my family, friends and teachers who have taught, loved and challenged me in a good way to become comfortable talking about my faith with others. It is so great to no longer fear sharing my faith with others and the joy of doing it has brought a great sense of inner peace, freedom and joy. That’s when I knew I was finally striving to live as a Catholic missionary disciple.
Shortly after my arrival as your new bishop, I was given a very clear grace (supernatural inspiration and insight) from God prompting me to establish a very clear vision for our wonderful diocese—Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love. These past months have been spent discerning how God desires that to be shared and lived out in every Catholic parish, school and institution in our diocese.
This month’s feature story is about one shining example of Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love as witnessed by young adults through the National Evangelization Teams (NET). In prayer one day last month I had a spiritual prompting (grace of God) to explore whether having NET serve in our diocese would be possible.
To my amazement because of the time of the year and COVID-19, God has made it possible for us to have a group of NET young adults assigned to our diocese starting in September. This is truly an amazing thing. Thanks be to God, NET leadership, and our Discipleship and Evangelization Office we will have a diocesan-wide outreach to kids, youth and families through retreats, one-on-one discipling and shared life with families in various regions of our diocese.
Does NET Catholic missionary discipleship work?
I was so very blessed to have a parish NET team in one of the parishes where I was pastor. I was absolutely amazed at the incredible impact the NETers had on the kids, youth, young adults, adults and senior citizens. The witness of young adults who are giving up a year of their life to serve as Catholic missionary disciples paid off in great fruits. They helped our middle and high school students learn how to pray, work through challenges, grow comfortable talking about God and personal difficulties, and helping others experience God’s love.
I was amazed to learn how our high schoolers then became Catholic missionary disciples for our middle schoolers and middle schoolers for grade school kids. Not only did our middle school youth numbers rapidly grow, but it was also impressive to see how many of those high schoolers went on to be Catholic missionary disciples with NET Ministries for one or more years.
At least five of those former high schoolers who served for a year or more on NET are now in the seminary discerning priesthood. Clearly, God is generous to those who open their hearts to divine love through NET.
My hope and prayer is that the example of our diocesan NET team will inspire each of us to ask ourselves a simple question: How is God asking me to be a Lifelong Catholic Missionary Disciple Through God’s Love?