SPRING HILL — Next month, local artist and volleyball coach Christine Morana will set off on a nine-month journey with 99 other young adults, traveling the United States to conduct Catholic retreats for youths in grades 6-12.
The international organization they will represent is National Evangelization Teams Ministries, known as NET. Their goal: challenge young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the church.
"Ultimately, we'll be touching lives one on one with the Gospel message," said Morana, 25. "We'll just start igniting the fire in them."
The organization, founded in 1981, is based in Minneapolis.
"They were doing retreats in their facility, and they just decided they needed to bring that to other people," Morana said about NET's origins. "So they had a group of a dozen young adults who put on retreats for the entire summer and went to other locations. It just took off, and lots of people wanted them to come back."
About 100 NET volunteers, ages 18 to 28, are sent out in vans each year across the country in teams of 10 to 12.
The teams share their faith during retreats, encountering about 60,000 youths. According to NET's Web site, "each team invites all they meet to give their lives to the only one who can satisfy their hungry hearts — Jesus Christ."
After five weeks of training beginning Aug. 20, eight teams will be ready to roll. Six of them will travel for the nine-month period to churches that have requested a retreat; two teams will remain in Minneapolis as parish teams, focusing on building up individual parishes there.
Morana said the training process is an important part of the program.
"Based on the concept you can't give what you don't have, the training focuses on developing a personal relationship with Christ," Morana said. "Over the course of the nine months, our day-to-day activities entail 30 minutes of personal prayer, one hour of team prayer, putting on retreats six days a week, staying and praying with host families — and then we do it all over again."
Morana said she has been preparing for this work her entire life. She recalled how from an early age she admired people who were reverent.
"When I'd be in church and see women kneeling at the altar and praying at peace, knowing there was nothing in the way of them and God, they were always my idols," she said.
Morana attended a lot of retreats and was active at her church, St. Frances Cabrini.
"I used to go to Life Teen in high school," she said. "It just totally inspired my faith and helped me understand what I believe and why I believe and not just go through the motions."
She also attended services at other churches.
"My best friend went to Northcliffe Baptist, so I used to go on Wednesday nights. In college I would go to other Christian organizations as well, so I just admire anyone with faith."
It was when she was a senior in high school in 2001 and her church hosted a NET retreat that she decided she'd like to be a part of that ministry.
She decided to go to college first.
After graduation from Wesleyan College in Georgia, she did some traveling — to 17 countries and 40 states — and concentrated on paying off her student loans. She worked with the National Catholic Student Coalition. More recently, she's been coaching volleyball at Central High School and the Hernando Juniors Volleyball Club.
At a conference in January, a friend suggested it was time for her to become involved with NET.
"I went online and got the application and applied in February," she said. "I had my interview in March. In the meantime, I'm raising money and preparing."
Morana needs $3,800 to make the trip and has raised about half of that. She is selling her paintings and drawings, as well as photographs she took while in England, at local restaurants. She is also accepting donations.
It was only recently that Morana learned about the change to NET's ministry goals, providing for two of the teams to remain in Minneapolis to do street evangelization.
"I had always planned on being on the traveling team," she said. "Now I'm much more open to being on a parish team, and I almost think that's where God's heading toward putting me. We won't know until after the training."
Morana is excited about her upcoming mission in whatever capacity the staff decides she is best suited to minister. She is especially looking forward to praying a lot, she said.
"That's what's so cool about NET. It's rooted in prayer, because you're ultimately sustaining and forming your own relationship with God," she said. "It's very personal. I think it's the next step for me in serving God. In our community, there are many ways to serve, but I need to be stretched and sacrifice much more than I am right now. If it benefits me, it benefits everyone that I come into contact with."