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Franciscan University honors NET Ministries for ‘strong Christian character’

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CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 05:07 pm MT (CNA).- The Franciscan University of Steubenville this week bestowed its highest non-academic award to NET Ministries, a national evangelization program for young people, headquartered in Minnesota.

Mark Berchem, founder and president of NET Ministries, accepted the Poverello Medal on behalf of the group.

NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries’ model involves training and sending Catholic young adults across the country, divided into teams, to share the Catholic faith with young people through retreats for nine months at a time.

NET has led more than 34,000 retreats and ministered to more than 2 million young Catholics since its inception in 1981, the group says. In addition to the U.S., NET is active in Australia, Canada, Guam, Honduras, Mexico, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Uganda and Ireland.

Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan University, said he experienced “fellowship and the power of the Holy Spirit” as a NET missionary before attending Franciscan.

“Thanks to NET, teenagers who may have never otherwise had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ have come to embrace him as their Savior and make the Catholic Church their spiritual home. Amid a culture that often rejects Christian principles, they are emboldened and empowered to live their faith,” Pivonka said.

Today, NET is currently active in over 100 dioceses. A notable alumnus is Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who first came to St. Paul through NET and later served as a traveling missionary throughout the country.

According to Franciscan, the Poverello Medal honors organizations and individuals who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi through strong Christian character, practical charity, and service to the poor.

The award was first presented in 1949 to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Other recipients include St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Mary’s Meals.

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