NET Ministries Receives Franciscan University’s Poverello Medal
Currently, NET is training 145 missionaries to serve on 13 teams, sharing the faith with over 100,000 Catholic teens in 100 dioceses.
September 18, 2020
Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, presents the Poverello Medal to Mark Berchems, president and founder of NET Ministries.

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—NET Ministries—whose National Evangelization Teams have led more than 34,000 retreats and ministered to more than 2 million young Catholics—was recognized with Franciscan University of Steubenville’s highest non-academic award, the Poverello Medal.

The award was presented September 15 at a reception held near NET Ministries headquarters in West St. Paul, Minnesota.

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

Like St. Francis of Assisi, who received a commission to go and rebuild the Church, Father Pivonka said, “NET has been a part of the rebuilding of the Church, rebuilding families, rebuilding faith, 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 Poverello 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 faithful donors including the Rose Totino family, whose mother Rose, who died in 1994, was one of the first NET donors. One of Rose’s 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.’”

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

Cast in steel to signify simplicity and poverty, the Poverello Medal honors organizations and inpiduals 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 include St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Mary’s Meals.

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