Youth from diocese parishes gather in faith and as one church

MACON – Middle school youngsters from across the Diocese of Jackson stepped away from phones, computers and the world this month to take part in a spiritual retreat and to spend some quality time with the Lord.
“The theme of our retreat was “One Church” focusing on the universality of the Catholic Church,” said Abbey Schuhmann, diocesan coordinator of the Office of Youth Ministry, who helped organize the annual diocesan Middle School Fall Retreat Oct. 12-13 at Lake Forest Ranch surrounded by 50,000 acres of pine forest in rural Noxubee County. “The overnight retreat provided the youth with a high-energy, faith-filled program throughout the weekend,” Schuhmann explained.

MACON – NET Missionary, Molly Shanahan speaks to middle school youth attending the “One Church” retreat at Lake Forest Ranch on Oct. 12. (Photo by Abbey Schuhmann)

The weekend gathering was led by members of the National Evangelization Team or NET, a Catholic ministry program established 35 years ago out of St. Paul, Minn. Net ministers are typically aged 18-24. They volunteer a year of their time to work as trained missionaries without pay and solely focused on creating relationships with young people through retreats and programs and bringing them closer to Christ.
“NET was very popular in our diocese in the 1980’s, and we are excited to have them serving in our diocese once again,” said Schuhmann about the team of young men and women, who visited two schools during their Mississippi mission. At Sacred Heart Southaven and St. Joseph Greenville they staged mini-retreats and shared their own personal encounters with Jesus Christ and their faith transformations, inspiring all in attendance.
The fall program in Macon included talks, small group discussions, prayer, adoration before the Lord in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There were plenty of opportunities for the young people to socialize and have fun. Throughout the weekend there were games of friendly competition including ping-pong, basketball, volleyball and gaga ball, the latest craze. Saturday, there was a bonfire by the lake, and the NET Team performed funny skits throughout the weekend and a drama was also part of the entertainment lineup.
“Parishes from five of our six deaneries were represented at this year’s retreat,” said Schuhmann, pleased about the turnout. Adult youth leaders from the various parishes helped out where needed, and during the weekend, they had the opportunity to meet one another and discuss the youth ministry programs at their respected parishes.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz visited on Sunday morning and celebrated Mass bringing participants together in praise and worship and inspiring all with his message. In fellowship, he joined the teens and adult leaders after Mass.
For information on upcoming diocesan youth events and activities, please contact Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for the Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson at