Mary Schechinger and Abby Lantzky of Davenport are packing their bags and preparing for nine months of active ministry across the United States.
Schechinger is a student at St. Ambrose University and Lantzky is a 2011 graduate of Assumption High School, Davenport.
National Evangelization Teams are an international Catholic youth ministry that is committed to challenging young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Roman Catholic Church.
About 100 young adult volunteers, trained through the NET Ministries, based in West St. Paul, Minn., will travel in teams across the United States.
Schechinger learned about the teams during her freshman year at St. Ambrose.
“I thought at that time there was no way I could do that until I got done with college,” she said.
But the idea of sharing her faith with others and travel lodged in her mind and refused to budge. Deciding to take time off between her junior and senior years required extensive thought and planning.
Schechinger realizes she’ll have numerous life details to tend to once she graduates with a triple major of radio/TV, journalism and theology.
Now is the time to pursue her desire for mission work, and she will share the journey through her radio show on the road blog.
NET Ministries was inspired by Pope John Paul II and his idea of a world youth day, Schechinger said.
Participating in the mission experience helps bridge the gap between the diverse spiritual influences she saw growing up. She spent a lot of time with her aunts who are “very on fire with faith” and involved in nondenominational churches. On the other side of the pew, her parents are Catholic and her home church is St. Michael Parish in Harlan, Iowa.
“I didn’t think they could go together, evangelism and Catholicism,” she said.
Lantzky learned about the program from teams that led retreats at her church, St. Paul the Apostle in Davenport, and an informational booth at an Assumption High School retreat.
Last fall she started working on her application to participate on the 2011-12 teams.
“I was open to whatever God wanted me to do,” she said, adding whether that meant participating in the mission program or beginning college this fall.
She found herself playing phone tag with the NET staff when the announcements were made about team member selections. The initial call came when she was rehearsing for a dramatic production, and she went through a nerve-wracking wait to find out whether the answer was yes or no.
Schechinger said the teams are committed to challenging young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the church, and she appreciates knowing the nonprofit organization has the backing of the Catholic Church.
Team members share their faith and lives with youth groups in their region and engage in community service projects across the country.
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The experience will begin in October after five weeks of training. Teams travel via van in groups of 10 to 12. Each member is allowed one suitcase, pillow, sleeping bag and backpack.
Lantzky describes herself as a jeans girl and isn’t worried about traveling with limited clothing supplies. “The thing that will be challenging will be shoes because I like shoes,” she said.
Schechinger is preparing for the journey with plenty of prayer and mentally to respond to tough questions such as “Why are you Catholic?”
Lantzky attends morning Mass in addition to working at Camp Shalom this summer.
Both young women are raising funds for their trip. Team members are asked to raise $4,200 to support their work as missionaries.
Lantsky’s biggest hope for the program is that through the reworking “of my faith and how I’m growing in my faith, that I can also inspire others to know God as I have,” she said.