SENT ministries continue, thrive despite COVID-19 complications

Elizabeth A. Boudreaux

Staff Writer

Haley Augustyniak, a junior theology and catechetics major, has been involved in SENT ministries for five semesters, but the last two have looked a little different.

SENT, Hailey said, stands for “student evangelization networking teams.” These students are “sent” to put on retreats for different parishes, dioceses and schools in areas as far as the state of New York or as near as familiar Steubenville.

Hailey said that SENT strives to “be light bearers and God bearers, bringing the joy of the gospel to young people.” She is proud of the “vibrant, passionate and authentic college students” involved in the teams and of all they have done for their retreatants.

SENT is a relational ministry, meaning the members serve Christ through connecting with and loving the youth in their care, Augustyniak said.

Psychologically, an emotional connection or bond is greatly empowered by physical bonds and masks and social distancing break this bond in two, Augustyniak said.

“(Following protocol) is a charitable thing to do,” Hailey said, “but it does make ministry difficult.”

Despite these difficulties, Hailey is proud of SENT’s perseverance. The teams embrace the sacrifices of COVID-19 testing, mask wearing and social distancing in order to continue their beloved ministry to teens, Augustyniak said.

This semester there are six SENT teams and upwards of eight retreats total.

Another struggle due to COVID-19 is that of keeping the teams together. Following precautions, ministry members are often quarantined for as few as two days or as many as two weeks, but as with all struggles, SENT has been able to overcome this one with flexibility, and many members have been more than willing to jump teams for the sake of the retreatants.

SENT is excited for the end of coronavirus restrictions, which would amplify the works it strives to perform and allow the teams to “love and serve to the best of our abilities,” Augustyniak said.

SENT is known for its flexibility, as retreat schedules often change in the middle of the day, team members or retreatants fall ill or transportation proves difficult. Therefore, another valuable virtue of SENT missionaries is their hope.

“I would encourage our students to continue to go out of their way to love people in any way they can,” Hailey said.

As the proverb goes, where there is a will there is a way. No matter the business, health issues or social struggles, there is always a way to love, and to love deeper, Augustyniak said. If we can love through a global crisis, what can hold us back?

Finally, Hailey offers a much-needed piece of advice, a bright light to hope in during these times of change and struggles.

“Relational ministry isn’t always about bringing Christ directly into the conversation, but showing them that Christ lives within you and within them, and because of that we are called to love, love and love as Christ does.”

Anyone interested in joining SENT in a future semester should contact the Missions of Peace Office.