Rachael Duchmann will spend 11 months in Ireland as part of NET Ministries. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator
“I think I’ve always had a servant’s heart, but it really didn’t come until I started becoming involved in my church,” said Duchmann, 18, who will leave at the end of August to spend 11 months as a missionary in Ireland through the National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries.
A parishioner of Holy Rosary for the past 12 years, Duchmann said she did not plan to go to college for a while. When the flood of 2016 filled her home, which is in the vicinity of Holy Rosary, with waist-high water, she didn’t know if she was mentally prepared to go to college.
“I originally thought I would work and save money and go to college later,” said Duchmann.
She talked to Holy Rosary pastor Father Josh Johnson, who encouraged her to look into NET Ministries. During her research and discernment process, she learned that NET provides nine mission opportunities and the mission trip to Ireland piqued her interest. She discovered that one of the people who had done it before was Sarah Stoehr, the youth director at St. Joseph Church in Ponchatoula. Duchmann met Stoehr through a friend she made as a member of the Diocesan Youth Board.
She said she “fell in love” with the idea of becoming a missionary after talking to Stoehr.
She didn’t think she would be accepted for NET Ireland because she was told there was an influx of 18-year old girls for that mission.
“So I really wasn’t hopeful. Then I got the call that I had been accepted,” Duchmann said.
Because she had not applied for a NET USA mission, she “compared notes” with a NET USA representative.
“The more research I did, the more I felt I was called to Ireland,” Duchmann said.
“It’s been crazy since then, but it’s the best crazy it can be,” Duchmann said.
She added, “I’m processing the fact that I will be thousands of miles away from home, which is overwhelming.
“If I didn’t have such a good support system I don’t think I would be able to do it, because it’s such a leap of faith.”
The biggest challenge for Duchmann has been the fundraising process. She said she grew up in a home where you don’t ask for things. During the flood, which caused them to have to “gut the house from floor to ceiling,” it was hard for her to accept help.
“That is not my strong point. I’m a giver, more so than a receiver, so that’s been my struggle.”
Through the trip, Duchmann will invest her life in the youth of Irleand. Once she arrives in Dublin she will go through five weeks of intensive training. She will then be assigned to a team that helps build the local youth group or part of a team that will travel over 120,000 miles in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and put on 150-200 retreats over 11 months, evangelizing youth.
Duchmann said, “I definitely think that homesickness will be one of my biggest battles because I’ve never really been away from home. Doing missionary work outside of the country is a little scary. But I know it’s God’s will, so while it’s scary, there’s peace. How scary can it be when it’s God’s will?
“I think I’m really just looking forward to experiencing something new. I think it’s easy to get stuck.”
The items which Duchmann plan to take with her include a medal of St. Padre Pio that her father brought her from Rome, “The Life of the Beloved” by Father Henri Nouwen, and a medal or figurine of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers and children.
Duchmann’s plans are to return home and study theology.
“The idea of serving the youth is where my heart is. I think the trip will help me find my voice with the youth,” she said.
She added, “I think this year will help me grow in my leadership skills. I think I am going to learn so much. I hope I come back and have a lot to offer my parish.”
Duchmann said she has ancestors from Ireland, so if time affords, she will do some family research.
“My ancestors came from Ireland to New Orleans. In theory I have cousins over there because of that, which is kind of cool,” she said.
Duchmann said she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of her Holy Rosary church family.
“Knowing I have the love and support of my parish will also make the transition easer. In any transition, knowing you have people praying for you is awesome, it’s so cool.”
To donate to Duchmann’s trip, visit facebook.com/urbanmissionaryRD/ or stop by or call the Holy Rosary office at 225-647-5321.