The following is a recollection by Siobhan O’Shaughnessy, a young woman who attends a young adult prayer meeting in Midleton parish.
Siobhan is from Knockanore in Co. Waterford and here she shares with us her experience of a Catholic missionary program in Australia that she embarked on a year ago.
Siobhan attends the Youth 2000 young adult prayer group that meets in the Edmund Rice Centre in Midleton every Thursday at 7.30pm. This prayer meeting is for young adults 16 – 35 years of age. Click here for map of location. New members are welcome. For further details contact 086 0853535.
I was 19 when I fully encountered the love and mercy of Jesus. I searched for a deeper knowledge of my Catholic faith and I soon discovered that in my faith I found truth, hope and real happiness. I began to have a relationship with my creator Jesus. I noticed that the more I learned about him the more I began to truly love him and the more my life started to make sense.
In this time I started to go to Youth 2000 retreats and I met like-minded people who were on the same journey in living the life of a young practicing Catholic. My soul was full of the Holy Spirit and I felt a strong calling in my life to tell young people that God does exist and not only does he exist but he is madly in love with you and wants you to have the best life possible.
I also knew that I had to do something more for God! This is when I looked into being a Catholic missionary and serving on NET ministries for a year. NET stands for “National Evangelization Team” which has bases in Ireland, USA, Canada, Uganda and Australia. The missionary program begins with six weeks of intense training. Then, for a whole year, the participants live in community with each other and evangelize other young people in the country where they are placed.
I applied to serve with NET Australia and was accepted for the 2016 mission. To say I was nervous and excited to start this adventure is an understatement. It meant leaving my family and friends and the life that I had in Ireland to go and minister to the youth of Australia. Jesus and Our Lady gave me the courage and fire that I needed to do this.
I arrived in Australia and undertook six weeks of training. My team consisted of five individuals and we were called the ‘Bundaberg’ team after the city where we were based in the north of Queensland. We were commissioned as missionaries and were ready to begin our ministry. Altogether there were seven different NET teams all across Australia.
Once we got to Bundaberg the parish welcomed us with open arms. We soon got to know the young people of the parish and after a while we set up youth groups with over 25 youth coming together each Sunday. We were privileged to journey with the youth personally and help them grow in understanding of their relationship with Jesus and be a friend to them in general. I witnessed transformations and miracles in my time serving with NET and I will cherish this time for the rest of my life.
The following are some words from the parish priest of Bundaberg reflecting on the visit of the NET team in his parish:
“I have just come home from the final parish youth group to be led by the 2016 NET Team. The transformation in number, level of participation, and depth of faith shared is nothing short of miraculous. What has happened in this group and in our parish is a credit to the young people of NET who have dedicated a year of their lives to sharing their faith and their relationship with Christ. It is a credit to the young people in our parish who have dared to be open and receptive to their faith. It is a credit to God through whose Spirit we are prompted to be drawn deeper into the life of the Divine. We can be confident that, God who has begun this good work in them, will bring it to fulfillment.”
Fr Andrew, Bundaberg.
I am now back home in Ireland and will continue the desire I have to evangelize to young people. Bringing God’s word of hope and mercy in the world that we live in today is very important. The organization “Youth 2000” has helped thousands of young Catholics across this country to embrace their own faith and live out a Christian life which is a life full of purpose and love, to be the face of Christ to those around us. The mainstream media today tells us that the Catholic faith is dying out in our country and that could not be more of a lie. I have witnessed thousands of young people between the ages of 12 to 35 living for Christ and setting the world on fire for their love of their Catholic faith. Through Youth 2000 and NET ministries there is great hope and freedom in this generation rising up to be the new modern saints of this world. As a great saint, St Catherine of Siena, once said: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Photos from Siobhan’s NET Australia experience: