May 18, 2012

Peer mentor program helps youths respect themselves and others

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, talks with peer mentors during the A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality luncheon on April 23 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. The abstinence education program is administered by Margaret Hendricks and Sylvia Brunette, staff members of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education. (Photos by Mary Ann Garber)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, talks with peer mentors during the A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality luncheon on April 23 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. The abstinence education program is administered by Margaret Hendricks and Sylvia Brunette, staff members of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education. (Photos by Mary Ann Garber) Click for a larger version.

By Mary Ann Garber

Chastity and prayer exemplify the “heart and soul” of the Christian life, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, told several hundred Catholic high school students during the archdiocesan A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality peer mentor luncheon on April 23 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

Practicing chastity is “the right use of the gift of sexuality that God has given us,” Bishop Coyne told the teenagers who present abstinence education programs to Catholic middle school and parish religious education students.

“It’s a matter of embracing the Christian life deeply in a way that is imaged in how we use our bodies and how we see ourselves in relation to other people,” he said. “Catholics understand that the gift of sexuality finds its greatest and most complete expression in the relationship between a husband and a wife which is open to the reality and possibility of children.”

Bishop Coyne also encouraged the teenagers to be faithful to daily prayer.

“When your prayer life falls by the wayside, other things start to tumble like dominoes,” he said. “… Take the time [to pray] every day. … Prayer orders your day and is part of who you are.”

Embrace Christ in your life as your Lord and Savior, he said, as well as the Catholic faith with its beautiful sacraments.

“My prayer for you is that your daily life will be an expression not just of a chaste life,” Bishop Coyne said, “but also of a loving life, a Christian life.”

Matt Faley, coordinator of young adult ministry for the archdiocese, thanked the teenagers for being great witnesses to younger students as chastity peer mentors.

“What a beautiful witness that you have [as high school students] to say ‘yes’ to God’s call knowing that there is truth and beauty in a chaste life,” Faley told the peer mentors. “Christ is the light of the world, and you are saying, ‘Yes, I am going to bring his message to the world.’ Your witness is so encouraging to me as someone who works with college students and young adults. I get to see on an everyday basis the hope that is [evident] in our generation. I see young people have true conversions.”

Sadly, Faley said, “many of our brothers and sisters are living in the darkness,” and need our help to make the right choices in their lives by saying no to drugs, alcohol and premarital sex, which harm young people physically and emotionally.

Elizabeth Jamison, associate director of vocations for the archdiocese, volunteered as A Promise to Keep peer mentor when she was a student at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

“I encourage you to think of your involvement in A Promise to Keep as not only an activity which has filled your already busy lives,” Jamison said, “but rather as a group that you can belong to for the rest of your life because, as you share with our middle schoolers, chastity is a lifelong virtue.”

Many peer mentors will be called to the sacrament of holy matrimony, she said, and others will receive a call from God inviting them to seek his will and discern vocations to the priesthood or religious life.

“Develop an interior disposition that is open to respond to God,” Jamison said, “whenever and however he answers.”

Several peer mentors also spoke during the luncheon about how volunteering for A Promise to Keep has changed their lives for the better by helping them make the right decisions and grow closer to God.

“I feel that I have truly taken what I teach to heart,” Roncalli High School senior Casey Corsaro said. “… Being labeled as a peer mentor has been extremely important to me. I feel that I have more of a responsibility to do the right thing. … The Church’s teachings will always show me the right thing to do.”

A member of Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove, Casey said the opportunity to have a positive impact on junior high age students has been the greatest aspect of being a peer mentor.

“They see that we truly care about them,” she said. “They can see that we want them to succeed. We want them to have not only self-respect, but also respect from other people.”

Cardinal Ritter High School senior Larry Mukona, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, has been involved in the A Promise to Keep program since he was mentored in the sixth-grade.

“A Promise to Keep has been a pivotal part of my life ever since,” Larry explained. “… It helped to strengthen my conscience and to teach me how to not only [make] the right choices, but [also] to pick the right friends. … Being yourself and holding on to your own values is key, but the next step must be taken. Those who are able to maintain the right values will prosper.”

Greencastle High School junior and peer mentor Josie Wood, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, reflected on the word “promise” during her speech.

“A promise [is] something so delicate, yet so strong,” Josie explained. “Something you hold dear to your heart. … A promise to keep. A promise to yourself. A promise to cherish yourself as God cherishes you. To treat yourself with the dignity you deserve. That’s what this program is.

“It’s education about love, God and integrity,” she said. “It’s an amazing program, reaching out to younger kids [and] giving them someone to talk to, someone to whom they can relate and to help them through tough times. … It gives them a safe environment to talk, learn and grow in their love for God.

“I made a decision to love myself as God loves me,” Josie said. “I wanted that bond with God and my future husband, something so beautiful and pure. Something nobody could take from me.” †

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