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NET Ministries receives Franciscan University’s Poverello medal

RECIPIENT HONORED — Mark Berchem, founder and president of NET Ministries, far right, Tuesday accepted the Poverello Medal during a reception held in West St. Paul, Minn. Taking part in the presentation were, from left, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (Contributed photo)

STEUBENVILLE — NET Ministries, whose national evangelization teams have led more than 34,000 retreats and ministered to more than 2 million young Catholics, has been recognized with Franciscan University of Steubenville’s highest non-academic award, the Poverello Medal.

The award was presented Tuesday during a reception held near NET Ministries headquarters in West St. Paul, Minn.

The Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of university, told how he experienced “fellowship and the power of the Holy Spirit” as a NET missionary before attending Franciscan.

Like St. Francis of Assisi, who received a commission to go and rebuild the church, Pivonka said, “NET has been a part of the rebuilding of the church, rebuilding families, rebuilding faith and restoring confidence and trust in the church.”

Reading from the citation, he said, “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.”

Mark Berchem, founder and president of NET Ministries, accepted the medal on behalf of NET Ministries.

“We’re pretty simple. We just take young adults who know Christ, give them a little training and send them out to change the world,” Berchem said.

He thanked NET’s donors including the Rose Totino family, whose mother Rose, who died in 1994, was one of the first to donate to the organization.

One of her daughters said, “Our family will be forever indebted to NET Ministries for changing hearts, encouraging the young, and reviving our Catholic Church. We firmly believe NET’s mission perfectly fits the words of St. Augustine: ‘Our greatest romance is to love God. Our greatest adventure is to seek God. And our greatest achievement is to find God.'”

“We need institutions like NET, like (Franciscan University of) Steubenville who will help connect people with a living relationship with Jesus,” said Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was a former NET missionary.

Cast in steel to signify simplicity and poverty, the Poverello Medal honors organizations and individuals who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, Il Poverello (“the little poor man”), through strong Christian character, practical charity and service to the poor. It was first presented in 1949 to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Other recipients have included St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, the Little Sisters of the Poor and Mary’s Meals.

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