December 19, 2014

Catholic Education Outreach / Margaret Hendricks

A Promise to Keep marks 20 years of service in archdiocese

The A Promise to Keep (APTK) chastity program has grown from a “pilot program” sponsored jointly by St. Vincent Health and the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education to a ministry that has helped form “intentional disciples” throughout the archdiocese.

In 1994, along with Eve Jackson and Sylvia Brunette, I had the privilege of training the first groups of mentors. The vision behind the program was to utilize the strength of high school juniors and seniors who were positive role models striving to live chastely in their relationships.

The ultimate decision to live chastely lies with each individual regardless of one’s age. With the many issues that challenge society today, there is wisdom in providing young adults the opportunities to take a leadership role in promoting a healthy understanding of chastity and the Theology of the Body.

To date, there have been more than 10,000 high school students who have served as mentors in APTK. They have presented the curriculum and shared their witness with more than 100,000 younger adolescents.

The first mentors turn 37 and 38 years old this year. These young adults are living out their faith on college campuses, in the workplace and military. They are coming to the Church to be married, have children baptized and become active members in our parish communities.

Recently, a group of senior mentors spoke with me on the topic of leadership. They said younger adolescents do look up to them, so teens have a responsibility to be good leaders for others. Each mentor spoke about the solid role models active in their life.

One mentor, Libby, shared the fact she still remembered “Alexis” coming to speak to her seventh-grade class. Even as a junior high student, she knew Alexis was a great volleyball player. She described this day as an “ah-ha” moment, and thinking “if Alexis is standing up for this message and the values of APTK, then so can I!” She went on to say Alexis was a leader in her life and inspired her to become an APTK mentor.

After hearing this witness, I contacted Alexis. She was humbled to hear that, five years after she spoke to a group of seventh graders, she would be called a leader by one of those students. She went on to share with me that she still attended weekly Mass, was active in a Bible study in her sorority and was in a three-year relationship with her boyfriend, who had encouraged her to join him in his commitment to remain abstinent until marriage. She said it was a virtue important to both of them before they met, but she gained strength from his leadership in their discernment process. This led to their decision to choose to date with a sense of purity.

While the primary emphasis of APTK is on sexual purity, the mentors are really promoting the dignity of the human person. APTK provides teens a venue whereby they are afforded the opportunity to teach what they believe. Finding opportunities to engage young adults in leadership positions is the right thing to do and is consistent with the Gospel message!

While I have shared the witness of only two young adults, there are many, many more just like them that hold dear the same values and are leaders in their families, schools and communities! The quote “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words” describes profoundly many teens and young adults in our Church today. To God be the glory!
 

(Margaret Hendricks is the archdiocesan coordinator for A Promise to Keep. E-mail her at Mhendricks@archindy.org. For additional testimonials, go to our website at www.archindyym.com.)

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