Hi! Kat from team 9 here!
We are currently on our way to our 19th state we’ve traveled through since starting off in Minnesota in September. This next week we’ll be putting on retreats in the St. Louis, MO diocese and then traveling further down south to Palm Beach, FL.
Our team has traveled a lot which means we are often in our 15 passenger van. This has been such a blessing, giving us lots of time to get to know each other, dance to team songs, and make lots of puns.
There were many experiences I had expected to most likely encounter at some point, while traveling on a retreat team with NET Ministries. Instead of telling you all about our expectations though, I’m going to reflect on some of the moments when my team and I looked around at each other thinking “Is this really happening right now?”
*I did not expect to get stuck in a gas station restroom, that’s for sure. From experience, I can tell you that it is definitely an awkward, humbling moment when you have to knock on the restroom door from the inside, for help.
*I did not expect our first week of ministry to include team prayer with one of the coolest middle school principals on the djembe drum.
*I did not expect a youth (17 yrs old) from a retreat we put on in West Virginia to share with us that it was the first time she was inspired to learn about her Catholic faith. It was so encouraging to see the Lord plant seeds through us.
*I did not expect to sleep literally at the feet of Jesus, in front of the tabernacle in a beautiful chapel full of relics at Ablaze Ministries in Nebraska.
*I did not expect I would learn how to Cajun dance with a host family in Louisiana as well as taste most of Louisiana’s most renowned dishes.
*Oh yes. I did not expect to teach the team how to unicycle during a hurricane. (We didn’t have power for a few days, but the Lord sure did.)
*We did not expect to put on 4 confirmation retreats in one day (2 sets of 2 short retreats–our team split in half for both) because of covid precautions in North Carolina. This ended up being a beautiful experience because most of the kids had not been out of the house in months and I got to witness many youth open up to the Holy Spirit’s Will in their lives.
*I did not expect to have a van plant named “Spike” that we took (with permission) from The Brothers and Sisters of Charity’s monastery in Arkansas. He is a cactus and has a tiny homemade cloth mask. He might have fallen over a couple times and given our portable van-vac’ purpose, but we still love him.
Spike was not the only thing we took from the monastery though. We took wisdom from Br. John who served on a NET team and also worked for NET for several years. I would like to share with you a bit of what he shared with us through his docility to the Holy Spirit;
“There is no ‘knight in shining armor’ unless the armor is not shining. It has to be bloody, worn out, and broken. The paradox of all paradoxes; you need to fall before you can rise. When you are silent, that’s when your words speak volumes. When you are obedient, only then are you truly free. Voluntary sacrifice means love will flourish.”
Something that took me by surprise was just how amazing and inspiring all of the youth ministers, retreat contact people, and church staff/leaders have been. Their small bits of knowledge, testimonies, and witnesses to the faith that they openly share with us amount to endless reflection and integration in our daily lives.
Being on a retreat team is not nearly as exhausting as I thought it might be. Now, that could be props to what they call “road grace” but there is something exhilarating and stirring about coming into contact with so many lives, so very briefly. Learning to do ministry with 11 other people is such a blessing because we also learn so much from each other and affect each other deeply every day. Retreat ministry has been such an incredible experience, especially getting to know the youth personally, specifically in small group discussions. Please keep us all in your prayers, with a special intention for continuation of good health, and physical and spiritual protection!
God bless you all!
Much love from Team 9
~Sam, Elizabeth, Andrew, Isaiah, Amanda, Sally, Grace, Brenden, Sarah, Luke, Katherine, and Sam
(our names are in a Sam-wich!!)