NET Groups: Destined To Fail?

Casting the NET YOUTH GROUP  

— AMANDA CONNELLY explains how NET MINISTRIES hopes that its recently set-up branch in Scotland has big plans in the months and years ahead

Since the introduction of the Pope Benedict XVI Caritas Award in 2011-12, Scotland’s young Catholics have been afforded greater opportunity to bear testament to their Faith, and to be recognised for these efforts. An award that has been instrumental in promoting faith witness, it is apt that featured at this year’s Caritas Awards ceremony was NET Ministries—a worldwide organisation committed to encouraging young Catholics to embrace their faith and share the Gospel with and through young people. This year, NET Ministries embarks on its first year with its own Scottish division, NET Scotland.

Founded by Mark Berchem in 1981 in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, NET (National Evangelisation Teams) has seen more than 29,000 retreats sharing the Gospel message to over 1.7 million young Catholics around the world. Starting its humble, yet enthusiastic, beginnings with a team of 12 young people, they travelled across southern Minnesota in a van, carrying out a substantial 18 high school retreats over a three-week period. With the evangelisation retreats proving to be resounding success, three additional teams were instituted in Winona, North Dakota and South Dakota, and NET’s primary year-long missionary team was sent out on the road.

Deriving inspiration for both its name and work from St Mark and St Luke’s Gospels—“Come after me, I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17) and “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4)—NET Ministries has answered the call for growing demand and expanded to become the global movement it is today. Continuing its peer-lead mission to spread the Word of God with other young people across the world, it invites young Catholics to learn about their relationship with God and helps them to form their faith. It is truly international, with NET teams serving as far afield as Australia, Canada, Germany, Guam, Honduras, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Uganda and the United States.

The year 2015 marks the inaugural year of NET Scotland, having previously piloted two years of teams from NET Ireland. Whilst maintaining close ties with its Irish counterparts in training and team selection, the group is branching out as a charity in its own right, booking retreats and organising the teams’ ministry from its base in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.

As Scotland becomes the latest addition to NET’s global community, Emily McNulty, full-time staff member at NET Scotland, speaks about the aims and work of the charity.

“We want to reignite the Catholic Faith in Scotland,” she said. “Our hope and our dream is that every person in Scotland would know the love of Jesus and know it personally.”  Click here to read more

Comment

Knowing that the young people of Scotland have not been taught the authentic Catholic religion and are, therefore, in no position to “reignite the Catholic Faith in Scotland”, the question here is, will these “NET” groups do more harm than good, or will their “have a relationship with Jesus” approach perhaps encourage some young people to look more deeply into the truths of the Faith?  Typical of these evangelism groups, their approach is very Protestant – separating Christ from His Church – and this latest “net ministry” has the very same Protestant feel about it.  Not that the youngsters will realise that – they haven’t been taught the Faith themselves, so how can they possibly know that they are well and truly NOT going to  “reignite the Catholic Faith” but the Modernist counterfeit version of it.

In summary, it seems to me like the blind are being sent out to lead the blind but what do you think?

21 responses

  1. Well….. I know that achieving the Caritas Award is feasible without being a practising Catholic!

  2. I once saw a video of NET Ministries at my former High School. I managed to find it again (im sure its the same one – I cant check right now – there is a ‘rap’ about following Jesus in the one I saw):

    I could only stomach the first 30-40 seconds or so. Dont be fooled by the scenes where children seem enthusiastic – naturally, before filming started, they would have been threatened with all kinds of disasters by the school staff, if they did not smile and play along.

    The RE I got at school was drivel, (general education was first class), but this stuff is a new low and would have sent the young me fleeing from the faith – with curled toes – even more effectively than the various trashy fads which were served up to us.

    I agree wholehearted with Editors comment above, that this approach is Protestant – dancing about like buffoons, arms raised, chirping like a third rate wedding singer etc.

    Its very embarrassing. And it will be even more so to children, who are very astute and who know very quickly when they are being “sold a pup”.

    Its the kind of thing which makes people feel embarrassed to be Catholic Do you think many of these young people would be happy showing this video to their peers, who opinions and respect they value? If someone experiences their faith being turned into a source of embarassment in this way, then that persons faith is being damaged.

    Is it not amazing – in a tragic way – that an organisation with approximately 2,000 years of teaching expertise, and which has produced some of the finest minds in history, can be responsible for this stinking rubbish?

    I am sure the young people involved in delivering this material are very sincere and keen to make a positive difference, and I take no pleasure in criticising their efforts, but – goodness me – this is awful.

    Rather than childish games, or frankly embarassing / eccentric behaviour which appears to have spilled out of a Protestant Mega-Church – let our young people be moved by Gregorian Chant, let them marvel at traditional Catholic architecture, let them fall in love with the Philosophy of Aquinas and the writings of Great Saints, let them feel the power of ancient, beautiful liturgy which is like a portal connecting Catholics through time and space.

    Most importantly, teach them the faith properly, with simple, clear and effective catechesis.

    So, the school pupils in this video have been taught to sing and dance like a ropey circus act – but should anyone ask them “Why did God make you?”, they soon realise they have no answer to such a fundamental question. And there is no infantile dance routine which will cover up such a gaping omission in someones understanding.

    And thats when whatever faith they may have had is lost, and they regard the Catholic faith as an empty vessel with nothing to offer them.

    The Church is supposed to draw people to itself, through what it can offer them, not desperately run after folk, pandering like an over-friendly individual desperate for friends.

    • Gabriel Syme,

      From my own experience of these “missionary” groups, the majority of the children enjoy them because they are “different” and replace the usual timetable; in other words, the sessions are better than having to attend a Maths or English lesson, never mind an RE lesson! They’re fun-filled, with sketches, dramas, pop-type music, and “testimonies” from young people who have “turned back to God” or “found God” or whatever. There’s never any content – it’s all woolly which is what always struck me. Not even the brightest students seemed to notice that. After all, they’d had content-free RE and homilies in church all of their lives, so why would they notice something amiss in these fun-filled exercises?

      Take note: the leaders will be showing classes video clips of Papa Francis denouncing the narrow minded bigotry and fundamentalism that is, in fact, Catholic Tradition, in order to drive home their “all your need is a ‘relationship’ with Jesus (for which read ‘gooey feelings’)so it all ties in perfectly. If you want to lead young people astray, now’s the best time to do it. You have the blessing of Holy Father Francis – with bells on.

      Just the fact that there are young people not much older than themselves running the (literally) show, is enough to make it seem more “relevant” to them than the lessons and homilies with which they are already familiar. And to be fair, the same is very likely true of many, if not most, of their teachers. They think they’ve cracked the apostasy. Young people will return in droves to their parishes after one of these groups visit the school… except they never do.

      • I have had a lot of experience with Net ministries and I have seen many many young people become excited about their faith and return to the Church.
        The problem we have in the Catholic Church is that we are sacramentalised but not evangelized. Where in the church do we make an adult commitment to Christ? Confirmation seems to have lost its meaning.
        If you talk about commitment to Christ in many parishes you get an awkward embarrassed silence. I can say categorically that the vast majority of young people I have seen who fall in love with Christ, fall in love with His church as well. They become great Catholics …daily mass, frequent confession …youth ministry …even vocations to the priesthood.
        NET is a great asset to the church. Most bishops welcome and seek it in their dioceses. Welcome it..don’t knock it.

        • Peter,

          It concerns me when people separate Christ from the Church and when they separate the Sacraments from evangelisation – now another popular line of attack on the Church of yore.

          There can be no true evangelisation in the Catholic sense, no true “relationship” with Jesus, without being “sacramentalised” as you put it.

          Remember, the Sacraments are efficacious signs – not just signs and symbols. When we receive a valid absolution of our sins, for example, they’re actually gone. It’s the fact that to BE validly absolved we must have a firm purpose of amendment not to commit those mortal sins again (no going back to that cohabiting partner, for example) that makes some of us question the “success” of groups like NET. How many of those young “confessing” Catholics are using contraceptives and engaging in other immoral behaviours which they do not regard as sinful?

          I can’t comment on whether or not the young people to whom you refer are, in fact, “great Catholics” – that’s a judgment only God can really make, but the point has been made elsewhere on this thread, that until the traditional Catholic Faith has been restored in Scotland (and everywhere else) then all the “ministries” in the world can only be superficial, at best.

          If those young people are attending a daily Mass that should never have been invented in the first place, if they are confessing to priests who are condoning their sins, whether implicitly or explicitly, and if those vocations are built on shaky ground or even sand, then in time it will show.

          In the meantime, be assured we applaud the efforts of the young people who are keen to become involved in the Faith – we are just sadly aware that the Faith presented to them at the present time, during this worst ever crisis to afflict the Church, is not, sadly, the real thing and we can only hope and pray that somehow they come to knowledge of that truth and become acquainted, sooner rather than later, with the Catholicism that has been cruelly taken from them.

  3. Well God help us all if Net ministries are to be the way forward for our young Catholics! It was embarrassing drivel indeed. Where is the holy, the sacred, the numinous? Instead they are offered trendy hysterical rubbish.

    • Christiana

      A slow romantic (possibly sensual, as I’ve witnessed) dance performed by leaders of the group will be the “sacred” element and they’ll have some posters (possibly of the Scottish Highlands on a wet day, i.e. any day) to cover “numinous”. Don’t worry, it’ll be all there. Which is more than we can assume about the bishops permitting this nonsense 😀

  4. O dear, what is that all about. Couldn’t bear all that screaming and carrying on. Agree with you Gabriel that the children will not be impressed.

    Missing elements?. I think there’s definitely many missing and not just mortification ChristmasLiszt

    What about Mass, the rosary and the sacraments?

    Yes trendy, hysterical drivel Christina. Only the Americans could come up with something like this..

    • Clothilde

      To be fair, they WILL be “involved” in organising Masses. Every gimmick you can think of – and then some – will be wheeled out. Mention “Catholic Tradition” and somebody will say “Hey, Cardinal Schonborn ‘presided’ at a Balloon Mass, so that must be traditional – that’ll be OK…”

      Truly, you couldn’t make it up. But they will…

  5. Yes Editor it will be their version of the Mass but not the true one unfortunately.

    Sadly these young people are being lead astray.

    Lord have mercy on us.

  6. Gabriel Syme was right on the button, THE CHURCH MUST DRAW PEOPLE TO ITSELF. I was at a meeting the other night hoping for god teaching instead I found myself going to sleeps a wishy washy talk was given. There were questions to be asked at the end but when it came to my turn I just took over. I spoke of pagan Rome at the time of St Augustine and how he had been drawn to the Church because it was a contradiction to the pagan values around him. Young people were chase and entered marriage to be faithful to their partners what a contrast to that society and the pagan society of today. They did not have to ask what the Catholic Church stood for – they saw it with their own eyes. Yes, we can go out there and evangelise and talk about Jesus but if in our home base we are obviously ignoring his teaching what is the point. Statistically four out of five ‘converts’ leave the Church very quickly. I think even the modernists were glad I spoke, they at least had something to take away, it was all so boring..

  7. I am not familiar with NET, but I do have some experience of campus ministry groups in the US which are of a very high level in which young people at the college (university) level are invlolved in the evangelization of their peers. In one particular group I have direct experience of, this has been the source of many vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, so much so that they are under constant pressure to expand in order to meet the requests of bishops to begin campus ministry in their dioceses. And we are not talking here about some vague commitment, but about young people thoroughly schooled in the theory and practice of their faith who dedicate a full year of their lives after graduation to the evangelization of their peers. And by the way, not only do these young people take a year out of their lives to evangelize, but they have to be self-financing in the process.

    Trouble is, groups like the one I have described, like much else that is vibrant in the Church, are predicated on the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Just how well they will fare under Francis is seriously open to doubt. For though not everyone here will agree with me, it seems to me that the Church under the last two Pontiffs has been blessed with great good will on the part of many young people who have rejected, often at great personal cost, the anti-gospel ruthlessly prosecuted by anti-Christian elites through their minions in the mass media. Now that we have a Pope who has an understanding of the Church-World relationship which is seriously at odds with that of his predecessors, it remains to be seen if this will continue.

    At the present juncture, groups which are centred on the use of the 1962 liturgical books are generally far better placed to withstand the storm that is brewing on the horizon and whose ill winds and acid rains will soon wreak utter havoc unless checked by divine providence. These groups generally have a better sense of tradition and know that each pope, far from being an absolute, is only the privileged interpreter pro tempore of a tradition which transcends him and to which he must remain faithful in his interpretation of it.

    The Church is at a crossroads. Will Francis’s vision of a Church whose engagement with the world is solely through the service of the economically disadvantaged prevail, or will it be the more Catholic vision by which the Church engages not just with the poor but with culture as such, conscious that, unless evangelized, i.e. subtracted from the dominion of Satan, it will continue to be a source of poverty, both spiritual and temporal?

    For what it is worth, my money is definitely on the latter. Francis, for all his ruthlessness and for all the fear he inspires in orthodox circles, is nevertheless an anachronism, a pope in flared trousers and woolen tie, with long hair and a guitar over his shoulder. Not only, but since when has the left in the Church been a bearer of anything but sterility? Francis’s vision of the faith and the Church is just too pedestrian, too anti-theological, too anti-aesthetical, too anti-historical, too sociological, too-this worldly–his projected and perceived unworldliness notwithstanding–to get very far.

    We live in interesting times. But let us be on our guard and reflect that in China it is a curse to live in interesting times.

    As for NET, I wonder if it pre-dates the Francis phenomenon. If it does, it will have to be adapted and is very likely to fall apart in the process. My sincere hope is that it will not be like the many and varied schemes tried and found wanting under the late Cardinal Winning (does anyone here remember Renew?) and which seemed to leave people feeling even hungrier than before.

    Tradition, anyone?

    • Prognosticum,

      “And we are not talking here about some vague commitment, but about young people thoroughly schooled in the theory and practice of their faith who dedicate a full year of their lives after graduation to the evangelization of their peers.”

      Where did these young people learn the Faith?

      And what are the things you see as being “vibrant” in the Church? Even in the SSPX I don’t see much that is “vibrant”, so I’m genuinely curious.

  8. PROGNOSTICUM,
    Thanks for your helpful contribution. I was confident that there would be no change in the law concerning communion for the divorced and remarried for the Church then would be teaching error. Francis will never be allowed by the Holy Spirit to do this. I live in the Diocese of Portsmouth which was once the most Protestant Catholic Diocese in England. I know five young men who are now studying for the priesthood and they all share the same faith as you and me – the are Catholic. Two young men were ordained for the priesthood last year in Westminister and they were members of what was called a Faith Movement in Catholic Schools. One of those Westminster priests I spoke to was the most fervent Catholic I have come across in years and as I say was a member of the Faith Movement. Only traditional Catholics understand sacrifice and apply to the priesthood because they understand the word sacrifice. Few Modernists would ever consider it. Gone are the days when candidates would be asked if they would be able to work with women priests and in the seminary hold their heads low and co-operate. It is a slow progress but it is happening. I nearly fell off my seat last Sunday when my parish priest started talking about Purgatory. Now that was progress. We know the enemy, we know where we are going, we just need the courage to speak up.

    • John Kearney,

      Contrary to the popular perception, the Faith priests are not sound. They are committed to promoting their own version of the theory of evolution and – having attended one of their meetings where a blatant heresy was left uncorrected by the Faith priest-chairman – I’ve yet to see any evidence that they share the same Faith as the rest of us, at least in its entirety. That would require them to eschew the heresies of Vatican II (e.g. ecumenism and religious liberty) and I have yet to come across one who has done so.

      I’d love to think your assessment of the situation in Portsmouth is accurate, but I’m not convinced. .

  9. John,

    I am very worried about young priests of the kind you describe. Generally speaking the younger clergy are very faithful, but they find themselves in this ‘back to the seventies’ nightmare which has regalvanized many of the older priests who still hold sway in throughout the Church. My fear is that they will wither buckle under or leave. This must not be allowed to happen.

    • Worry not, Prognosticum, these younger “orthodox” clergy, tend to simply keep their heads down.

      Here in Glasgow, however, things are moving on a bit, and I believe there are some who are learning (or have learned) the traditional Latin Mass – one has started offering a First Saturday TLM, launched at the beginning of November, so let’s hope and pray that it’s not too long before one of them takes his courage in his biretta and announces a Sunday Mass. That’ll be the real test for the Scots Bishops – if they “permit” that provision, as they readily permit the provision of Polish Masses and Gaelic Masses, ecumenical services in any language you care to choose (except Latin, of course) and charismatic services in all sorts of indecipherable tongues.

      One waits with bated breath to see what transpires. One really does.

  10. One indeed does wait to see what transpires with bated breath. To the best of my knowledge (and I could well be wrong – and often am), some of those priests learning (or have learned) the traditional Latin Mass were born sometime after Vatican II ended.

    That will not go down well with the Scottish Bishops.

  11. I have been involved on a number of occasions with NET teams over the last few years, yes at times it comes across as ‘cheesy’ or some sort of happy clappy U.S style nonsense, but in actual fact everything in these retreats is based on sound doctrine.

    The retreat day consists of games and personal testimonies as mentioned above but also has catechesis inputs along with Mass, Exposition of thr Blessed Sacrament and confession available.

    Of course nothing is perfect and NET are no exception, but given the situation we are in at present in our schools then anything that can open the children up to the Church and let them see it in a positive light is helping the cause.

    • Nolite Timere,

      It’s a true saying that if one begins from a false premise, one will reach a false conclusion. To involve young people in the new Mass and all the other newness that goes with it, cannot possibly strengthen them in the true Catholic Faith. Sorry, but that’s the truth of the matter.

      Like you, I have also experienced these sorts of groups, when teaching south of the border. More than that I won’t say without my solicitor present!

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