May 12, 2006

A Promise to Keep: Chastity program helps teens respect themselves and others

By Mary Ann Wyand

Seven students at Seton Catholic High School in Richmond are the newest chastity peer mentors in the archdiocese.

They were welcomed to the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education’s A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality program during a luncheon on April 27 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

The new peer mentors will present their first abstinence education programs to Catholic grade school students in the Connersville Deanery during May.

“We’re really excited about the expansion of A Promise to Keep in Richmond,” said Margaret Hendricks, program director for the 12-year-old abstinence education curriculum presented at Catholic grade schools and parish religious education classes in the archdiocese.

“We have about 420 peer mentors from eight of our 10 Catholic high schools,” Hendricks said after the luncheon. “We’ve reached about 5,000 middle school students and religious education students this year. I’m so proud of them.”

These teenage peer mentors have made the decision to live chaste lives before they join the volunteer program, she said, then when they teach the curriculum and profess their beliefs to younger children it reinforces their commitment to wait for marriage.

St. Andrew parishioner John Purcell of Richmond, a junior at Seton Catholic High School who hopes to become a physician, said he “felt it was something that I just had to do because it’s so neat to be able to talk to other students about [chastity] instead of having an adult try to explain things. It gives structure to how you understand what the Church is teaching [about abstinence].”

Leigh-Anne Valentini, a sophomore at Seton Catholic High School and member of St. Mary Parish in Richmond, said she thinks the chastity program is “really important and will help a lot of kids” make the right decisions in life.

“It tells the kids that they are doing the right thing,” Leigh-Anne said, “and reassures them to do what is right.”

Leigh-Ann said she and John have been dating for about a year and know how important friendship is in their relationship as high school students.

During the luncheon, several peer mentors spoke to the students about their beliefs and experiences in the classroom setting.

Bishop Chatard High School senior Mary Glassmeyer, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, told the teenagers that she enjoys teaching adolescents how to make the right decisions about sexuality.

“Chastity is a gift from God,” Mary said, “and the Promise to Keep program helps others experience this gift.”

St. Agnes parishioner Andrew McMasters of Nashville a junior at Brown County High School, teaches the A Promise to Keep curriculum in the Bloomington Deanery.

“In fifth-grade, I signed a card that said I would save myself for my future spouse,” Andrew said, “and this promise still holds true today.”

Roncalli High School senior Lisa Watness, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, will pursue studies in nursing or another medical career as a San Damiano Scholar at Marian College in Indianapolis.

“Chastity helps me feel closer to God,” Lisa said. “It helps me respect others … and it makes me a stronger person. I am proud to say that I am keeping that promise until marriage. My parents have constantly inspired me to be the best person that I can be. [By practicing] chastity, I find the best version of myself.”

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School senior Jenna Knapp, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, participated in three mission trips to El Salvador and volunteers as a tutor at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis.

Jenna said she serves as a chastity peer mentor “because of what the Church and my family have taught me. … I believe in the program because it fosters kids to have self-respect, and to live a life in which their decisions and actions will demand that same level of respect from those around them.”

By turning to God, she said, “in his love, we can find strength to put aside temptations and make the right decisions.”

Cathedral High School senior Shawn Azman, a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, said his parents and his faith taught him that sex is a sacred act and should be saved for marriage.

He said serving as a chastity peer mentor gave him an audience to profess his Christian beliefs.

“I … hope that I could positively affect others’ lives by giving testimony to my life,” Shawn said, “and the happiness I can experience by living a life of virtue.”

Cardinal Ritter High School senior Brian Klemm, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, said the A Promise to Keep program helps teenagers respect themselves and others.

“I want to give my future wife all of me, not something that has been shared with others,” Brian said. “I believe that each and every one of us are influential, not only to ourselves but also to the children we speak to. … We have all made a choice … to live a chaste life because we know we are worth it as children of God.” †


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