April 19, 2013

Archbishop praises teenagers for mentoring youth on chastity

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and keynote speaker Liz Miskowiec pose with the A Promise to Keep high school mentors at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle after the annual A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality peer mentor luncheon at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on April 11. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and keynote speaker Liz Miskowiec pose with the A Promise to Keep high school mentors at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle after the annual A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality peer mentor luncheon at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on April 11. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Warriors come dressed in odd clothing these days: bright floral dresses, plaid skirts, polo shirts and khakis. And they’re young—from 15 to 18 years young.

But to Margaret Hendricks, coordinator of the archdiocese’s A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality chastity program, the 350 high school mentors of the program are indeed warriors.

“They really are on the front line,” Hendricks said. “It’s kind of like it’s a battle. They are soldiers in proclaiming God’s message of truth for marriage, for the sanctity of family and relationships.”

Through A Promise to Keep, teenagers serve as mentors to junior high school-aged students in Catholic grade schools and religious education classes, speaking to them about the beauty and truth of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality as God intended.

The students must apply and be accepted into the program. The mentors meet periodically and are trained by adults on how to present to junior high students on seven specific topics—freedom and peer pressure, media, consequences, assertiveness, sex and drugs, healthy dating and parenthood.

Encouraging and sharing their values as prior mentors once did for them is a motivating factor for many of the current participants. Several of the more than 150 mentors who attended a luncheon held in their honor on April 11 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis commented on the impact the program had on them in junior high, and how that inspired them to serve as mentors when their time came.

“When I was a seventh-grader, the Promise to Keep people came and talked to us at our school,” said Peyton Schneider, a senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. “There was a specific mentor who really had an impact on me. That really made me want to get involved so that I could maybe do the same thing for another kid.”

Senior Carolyn Keating of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis agreed.

“When I was younger, some mentors came to our school. I think it’s really important to keep that tradition up, especially with today’s media. It’s important to teach them how to choose the right media to listen to or watch, so they understand those messages aren’t always positive.”

The junior high students are not the only ones who benefit from the program. The mentors themselves grow from the experience.

“This program has had a huge impact on my faith,” noted Roncalli senior Kylie Schreiber. “It is a motivation to keep praying to God about the choices I’m making, and to make sure I’m making the right choices for myself and for my body.”

Her classmate, senior Alex Alfery, presented a witness to the mentors at the program. He also spoke of the relationship with God that the program nurtures.

“When I got to Roncalli, I remembered a few of the mentors, and they seemed to be the happiest kids in school. I now understand why they were,” Alex said. “They had such a strong relationship with God that they committed to him to live a pure and chaste life until they were married, and even in marriage.”

Talking to the teens during the luncheon, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin lauded their promise, their actions and the program.

“I think the promise you’re making is really important because, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re telling the truth,” the archbishop said.

“First, you’re telling the truth of the beauty and freedom of being a human being. You’re telling the truth about God’s creation, that God creates good, God doesn’t make junk. To be a Catholic means to esteem and reverence our bodies first and foremost because God, in becoming a human being, chose to have a body.”

Archbishop Tobin also noted that A Promise to Keep mentors share a second truth—“the Church loves and esteems sexual love.”

“When St. Paul was searching for an image to describe God’s close union and love for his people, the Church, as we read in the letter to the Ephesians, he uses the image of sexual love, of the union that takes place between a husband and a wife,” the archbishop said.

“You’re promising not only to use this gift the way it was intended, but to help younger people do that. I think that’s the most impressive part of A Promise To Keep, that you’re willing to mentor people that are younger than you.”

With experience from presenting to junior high students, Greencastle High School senior Alex Asbell of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle summarized “the beauty of this program” in his address to his fellow mentors:

“The more involved we got with the kids—the more we contributed as people with our talents, our time and, most importantly, our experiences—we began to see the beauty of this program, a program dedicated to making bold, joyful Catholics, young adults who are unashamed to simply do the right thing.” †

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