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Dunedin woman embarking on nine-month Catholic mission trip

DUNEDIN — Jasmine Pujol will be traveling and living out of a van for the next nine months.

She and up to a dozen other young people.

No, it's not a trek to California. It's a Catholic international youth organization hitting the road. And its members really are on a mission for God.

The 20-year-old Dunedin resident was among 100 Catholic youth between 18 and 28 chosen by NET Ministries, also known as National Evangelization Teams, to create nine volunteer teams of missionaries. They come to the United States from around the world to evangelize to youth at retreats or assigned parishes.

"I applied for NET two years ago and didn't get in," said Pujol. "Then in March, I attended a Catholic camp in Missouri. I fell in love with it, accepted a job there and had plans to move."

But she had second thoughts about that job and decided instead to attend a NET interview weekend retreat.

"I knew this was a calling from God to get back into NET ministries," Pujol said.

She jumped at the chance.

"I had two 45-minute interviews the first day," Pujol remembers. "They get to know you. Try to make you feel comfortable with what you'll be doing."

On Thursday Pujol will fly to the NET Center in St. Paul, Minn. The next day she heads to a camp in Wisconsin. Two weeks later, Pujol will be an official NET member and will begin presenting skits, talking, praying and sharing her faith with youth.

In reality, Pujol started training for this job years ago.

Since her freshman year of high school, Pujol has been a youth group member at Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Safety Harbor. During her junior and senior year, she served on the youth leadership team. Last year, she also taught second-grade religious education.

The long preparation time doesn't make things any easier for Pujol, however.

"I didn't make this decision lightly," Pujol said. "I'll miss my family and friends."

According to the NET website, traveling teams will journey more than 20,000 miles, stay in 125 host homes, serve up to eight dioceses and work at 150 retreats to reach 8,500 youth face-to-face.

As part of the project, Pujol must raise $4,000 of her own expenses. She has saved about $500 toward the trip and has sent out about 50 letters to friends and family in hopes they may support her mission.

She has the entire nine months to raise the money.

Pujol's mom said she understands why Jasmine must go.

"I feel extremely proud of having a daughter who has such an initiative to go on a trip that can inspire so many teens," said Martha Pujol, 40. "Although I'm sad because physically she will not be here, she's my inspiration to grow in my faith."

Pujol's dad said he agrees.

"I think it's going to be a great experience for her and for her future," said Hector Pujol, 44.

Jasmine's little sister Ivelisse, 15, said she also will miss Jasmine, but said, "I know she will have an amazing time and she will do great putting on retreats. She will be a great NETer."

Matt Reiswig, NET's recruiting coordinator, summed up why Pujol was chosen by saying, "Jasmine's mature, she has a great faith, and is a joy to be around."

While Pujol is excited about the journey, she is naturally a little nervous.

"For this ministry, you must be very outgoing," she said. "And I am. The challenge will be speaking in front of so many people and sleeping at different homes. But, I'm ready to go and be truly Christ-like to everyone I meet."

. Fast facts

How to help

To donate: People wishing to donate to help support Jasmine Pujol's nine-month mission with NET ministries can call (727) 678-4104.

To learn more: Visit www.netusa.org/teams/ or call (651) 450-6833.

Dunedin woman embarking on nine-month Catholic mission trip 08/18/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 9:06pm]

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