May 6, 2005

Luncheon honors 415 chastity peer mentors
in archdiocese

By Mary Ann Wyand

Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School juniors Aleshia Kennedy and Tyler Douglas of Indianapolis are chastity peer mentors in the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education’s A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality program.

Aleshia and Tyler also are dating, and said they are supporting each other in keeping their promise to practice abstinence until marriage.

Both teenagers said they appreciated the archdiocese’s 11th annual A Promise to Keep recognition luncheon held on April 28 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center Assembly Hall in Indianapolis.

This year’s luncheon honored 415 peer mentors for their volunteer service presenting chastity programs to middle school students at Catholic grade schools and in parish religious education programs during the school year.

About 340 of the peer mentors were able to attend the luncheon and heard congratulations from archdiocesan, Indian­apolis and state officials for having the courage and conviction to live out their Christian beliefs and serve as role models for younger students.

“I think [the luncheon] shows exactly how big the program is and how many other students are in it,” Tyler said. “That helps out a lot. It means you’re not alone in your own beliefs.”

Aleshia, who is a member of St. Rita Parish, also said the luncheon “makes you feel like you’re not alone. A lot of [young] people feel the way that you feel so it makes you want to talk to more [grade school] students next year as a senior.”

She said that “it’s a great big challenge to keep your promise,” especially as a 17-year-old who has a boyfriend.

“I’m real strong as a woman,” Aleshia said, “so I think I really can keep that ­challenge.”

During the luncheon, Margaret Hendricks, program director for A Promise to Keep, accepted a plaque from Ellen Quigley, assistant deputy mayor for policy, on behalf of Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson that proclaimed April 28, 2005, as “A Promise to Keep Day” in Indianapolis.

Quigley, a St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner in Indianapolis whose grade-school children have participated in the program, thanked the peer mentors for being positive role models to younger students.

Paula Parker-Sawyers, executive director of the state Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, represented Gov. Mitch Daniels at the luncheon and praised the teenagers for “leading others down the right path.”

Hendricks said she was pleased to see so many peer mentors at the luncheon as the abstinence education program begins its second decade in the archdiocese.

“The first year, we only had 100 peer mentors in attendance at the luncheon,” Hendricks said. “This year, I heard from the mentors how much it meant to them to see so many of their peers there.”

Roncalli High School senior Brittany Kern, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, told the gathering that, “Years ago, I made … the choice to remain chaste until I was married. … I know that my experience with the Promise to Keep sessions when I was in grade school had a lot to do with that choice.

“I also am infatuated with the idea that God has destined me for one man—my soul mate, my perfect match,” Brittany said. “God created him just for me and I intend to stay pure until that day I make those sacred vows just for him. Being in Promise to Keep has helped me grow in my convictions, knowing that I made the right choice for myself and for God.”

Bishop Chatard High School senior Michelle Foisey, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, said she was raised in a Belizean-American family and faith is an important part of her life.

During a visit to Belize last year, Michelle said she learned that the Central American country has a very high rate of AIDS and she felt called to begin the A Promise to Keep program there by working with parish youth ministers.

“This past spring break, I went down to Belize with videos and all the materials needed for the program [that were] donated by Mrs. Hendricks,” Michelle said. “If all continues to move forward, I plan on—along with Mrs. Hendricks and Mrs. [Sylvia] Brunette [North Deanery coordinator]—traveling to Belize this summer to train peer mentors and parents for Promise to Keep. … I would like to eventually start a mission trip through my high school, where we would take peer mentors to Belize to help train peer mentors.

“This experience has shown me that anything is possible,” Michelle said. “We are not limited by age. We can make as big an impact as any political leader, actor or singer. This program has taught me to think beyond my local community, [to] think in terms of my global community.” †


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