January 27, 2006

2006 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Grants help A Promise to Keep promote chastity

By Mary Ann Wyand

Lights … camera ... action! It’s time to update seven educational videos for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education’s A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality chastity program.

Thanks to a $45,000 grant from Our Sunday Visitor Inc. in Huntington, Ind., awarded on Nov. 21, Margaret Hendricks, the program director of A Promise to Keep, will be able to update printed materials and videotapes used by teenage peer mentors who present the abstinence education programs to adolescents at Catholic middle schools and parish religious education classes.

“Since 2001, Our Sunday Visitor Inc. has supported A Promise to Keep with grants,” Hendricks said. “We’re very grateful for their continued support.”

St. Vincent Health in Indianapolis also has helped fund OCE’s chastity program since A Promise to Keep was created in 1994, she said, by providing an annual grant to help with operating expenses.

“We would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for the help we receive from Our Sunday Visitor and St. Vincent Health,” Hendricks said. “We appreciate their ongoing corporate support of our operating expenses. Originally, St. Vincent Health officials made a three-year commitment to help underwrite some of the expenses for A Promise to Keep. However, due to the program’s success, as early as 1995 St. Vincent Health officials reconsidered their commitment and encouraged the Office of Catholic Education to apply annually for a St. Vincent Health Charity Care grant.”

Hendricks said there also has been financial support from other benefactors, who requested that they remain anonymous.

In May, Hendricks will start writing the scripts for the new videos, which will be produced by an Indianapolis production company and are expected to be ready for use in the classroom setting during the 2007-08 school year.

The pilot program was created by Eve Jackson, the former A Promise to Keep coordinator, in the archdiocese 12 years ago. About 100 teenage peer mentors from the six Catholic high schools in Indianapolis were trained as chastity peer mentors to present abstinence education programs for middle school students at 30 Indianapolis-area grade schools in 1994.

This year, about 425 high school peer mentors are reaching about 5,000 junior-high-age adolescents enrolled in parish grade schools and religious education programs in seven deaneries in the archdiocese.

Evidence of the success of A Promise to Keep is also seen through the growth of The PEERS Project and the expansion of the Peers Educating Peers about Positive Values (PEP) curriculum.

Jackson, now the executive director of The PEERS Project, said the PEP curriculum is a non-sectarian version of A Promise to Keep and is presented in approximately 50 public school corporations and youth-serving organizations in 34 counties throughout the state.

Hendricks said Jackson produced the first chastity education videos in 1995 and 1996.

“We have had to use the videos for both A Promise to Keep and the federally funded Peers Educating Peers project,” she said. “Now we will be able to add more Catholic theology to the updated videos for A Promise to Keep.”

The high school peer mentors who acted in the first videos are college graduates now, she said. “They are moms and dads and firemen and teachers. They’re all grown up, and it’s past time for the videos to be updated.”

During the past 10 years, Hendricks said, “we have seen a reduction in the number of sexually active teenagers, but the spread of sexually transmitted diseases has continued to rise exponentially. From a faith perspective, we have an opportunity to introduce God’s instructions for our life by applying the deeper meaning of the [Ten] Commandments and Catholic teachings on the theology of the body. We couldn’t do that before because we also had to use the videos for secular venues.”

Hendricks said the Our Sunday Visitor grant will also enable OCE to introduce social justice issues and other Catholic topics in the new videos.

“It is evident that there is an urgent need for our program and its curriculum to update the factual information referenced in the videos,” she said. “It will strengthen our faith-based program to add Catholic theology to the videos so they will reflect the wisdom and beauty of our Church’s teaching on chastity and sexuality, … and adoption as a loving option for unplanned pregnancy.” †


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