For much of his life, Chris McKee of Grand Island spent each August preparing for the upcoming school year, readying himself for classes, homework and books.
This year is a bit different. McKee is leaving soon for weeks of training in an international Catholic youth outreach program called NET in St. Paul, Minn.
There, he will join other young Catholics, ages 18 to 28, also learning how to be missionaries, traveling across the country, using music, drama, talks and prayer at retreats geared for high school and middle school students. NET teams, since 1981, have led more than 16,000 retreats and ministered to 1.6 million teenagers.
"I wanted to do this because I want to help young people make wise decisions with their lives," said McKee, who also served in the Campus Ministry Office at Mercyhurst College, where he graduated in 2003. He earned his high school diploma from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in the Town of Tonawanda.
McKee said an important part of his mission is also helping to realize "how important and rewarding it can be to make God a bigger part of their lives."
While serving with NET, he admits, he will miss watching the Buffalo Sabres on a regular basis.
Though he holds a degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management, hotel work "didn't feel like where I was supposed to be," he said.
He knows about miracles, though. Not long ago he suffered pneumonia so severe, he was given a 1-in-3 chance of dying.
"I was in the hospital for weeks," he said, before making a full recovery at home.
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