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Plea to parishes to invest in youth ministry

By Susan Gately - 05 February, 2016

"If we don't have youth ministry on a permanent basis in every decent-sized parish in Ireland, we won't have a Church in the future": Director of NET Ministries Ireland.

NET volunteer at Encounter Day.

NET volunteer at Encounter Day.

As Catholic schools week draws to a close, a group working for the evangelisation of young people has appealed to parishes to invest in youth ministers.

If we don’t have youth ministry on a permanent basis in every decent-sized parish in Ireland, we won’t have a Church in the future, said Director of NET Ministries Ireland.

“Our parishes are happy to spend money on the roof of the church. The reality is that we are not going to need that church in twenty to thirty year’s time. We’ve got to change the mindset. Okay invest in buildings, but invest in people and programmes,” Tony Foy told CatholicIreland.net.

NET Ministries, with more than fifty young people working in the mission field in schools and parishes, is growing year on year.

The organisation’s main work is providing Encounter Days (retreats) in schools. It also has five parish teams, three working in parishes in Ireland: Athenry, Dunshaughlin and Cork.

The other two are in Scotland.

However, Mr Foy insists that Net Ministries will not get involved in a parish (for a minimum of a few years), unless the parish  is willing to invest in a full time youth minister.

Before, the Donegal man explained, they used to go into a parish for a year. “We would get the kids all hyped up. They were loving their faith, they were loving the Lord.  And you drop them after a year and the parish does nothing, although they may think they’ve ticked the youth ministry box.”

We are trying to bust the culture of maintenance and turn it into mission, he said.

Tony Foy, Executive Director NET Ministries

Tony Foy, Executive Director NET Ministries

Mr Foy estimates that it costs €30,000 plus for a parish to employ a youth minister, but it can be done for a lesser stipend (supplying a car for example).

“There are creative packages in place, but if you are employing someone from Ireland, the starting salary needs to be around €25,000.”

He believes it is the only way to enthuse young people.

“Protestants have been doing it [youth ministry in parishes] for over sixty years and it took the Catholic Church in America a long time to catch up with that. We’re slowly waking up to the idea.  We’re not too late yet but – come on guys, let’s get our act together here.”

NET Ministries says it is up to the parish to find the youth minister, but they will help them.

Once a parish has a youth minister, Net will support him or her, help out with formation, ideas and training.

It is also implementing a support network for youth ministers in Ireland.

“It is so new and obviously it is in our interests to make sure these guys stay, that they are supported, are faithful themselves and they’re doing good ministry.”

Previously NET worked for three years in the parish of Delvin which now has a youth minister.

Volunteers sign up for a year with the organisation and may stay on a second year. Team members have to have a personal relationship with Jesus and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Last year, the group led over 100 retreats in schools as well as working in parishes. They are almost booked out for 2016, but there are a few spaces left, says Mr Foy.

Schools interested in having a NET Ministries-led Encounter Day should contact 085-8666019 or email office@netministries.ie.

Since October 2015, the group has begun running ‘Surf, Sand and Son’ evangelisation weekends at Rossnowlagh in Donegal.

“We call it ‘Son’ not ‘Sun’ because you can’t be guaranteed the sun in Ireland,” says Tony Foy.

“When you’re selling evangelisation to parishes it is hard and it takes perseverance. We have got to keep ‘switching it up’ and figuring out different  ways of contacting people,” he said.

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