May 29, 2009

‘A Promise to Keep’ chastity program marks 15th year

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein talks with “A Promise to Keep” chastity peer mentors during the annual recognition luncheon on April 23 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein talks with “A Promise to Keep” chastity peer mentors during the annual recognition luncheon on April 23 at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

A promise to practice sexual abstinence until marriage continues to grow in strength and numbers among young people in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

This promise dates back 15 years, and has changed the lives of tens of thousands of adolescents, teenagers and young adults in central and southern Indiana who have said “yes” to God’s call to live a chaste life.

Their lives changed for the better thanks to the “A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality” program initiated by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education staff members in 1994.

On April 23, the archbishop and Office of Catholic Education staff members honored the high school peer mentors who presented the “A Promise to Keep” program to middle school students at Catholic schools and parish religious education classes during the 2008-09 academic year.

“This annual ‘Promise to Keep’ luncheon is quite a tribute to this ministry, to the [chastity] message, and to the commitment that all of you have made to serve God and our archdiocese,” Margaret Hendricks, coordinator of adolescent growth programs, told the teenagers during the recognition luncheon at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

“The early mentors really cleared a path for you,” Hendricks said, “and they have challenged you to continue [to share] that [abstinence] message. That’s what we are celebrating today. We’re here to celebrate you.”

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein thanked the teenagers for their dedicated service to God and the Church as chastity peer mentors.

“Thank you for your time to help our youth,” the archbishop said, “helping them to understand and to appreciate the importance of the virtue of being chaste. I hope you’re aware that God gave us the help to be people who respect the dignity of other people. I think you’re aware that the grace of the sacraments of our Church, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation, strengthen us to live out our love for God through chastity.

“A young man recently told me that when he is faced off and on with the challenges, with the temptations, of safeguarding his chastity, he thinks about all the good things that God has given him and he thanks God for giving him those gifts,” Archbishop Buechlein explained. “He said this act of thanksgiving [to God] is a very, very helpful way for him to protect the challenge of remaining chaste in his own life. I thought that was a very interesting and very effective way [to make the right decisions in life] because it reminds us that God is with us, God loves us and God graces us.”

Keynote speaker Kevin Tichenor of Indianapolis, the first faith-based coordinator for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, helps connect the area faith community with the criminal justice system to minister to at-risk youths and adults. He also serves as an associate minister at Victory Tabernacle of the Apostolic Faith in Indianapolis.

“I want to leave a lasting legacy as a Christian,” Tichenor said, “which is something that everyone is able to do, whether young or old.”

Stay true to your core values as a Christian, he urged the teenagers, in order to live a happy, healthy and successful life.

Overcoming challenges and adversities in life helps people become stronger, Tichenor said, and more faithful to God.

As a teenager, he volunteered as a chastity peer mentor for the Peers Educating Peers abstinence education program, a secular version of “A Promise to Keep,” coordinated by Eve Jackson for the Indianapolis Public School System.

“I’m so happy I had these [ministry] encounters,” Tichenor said. “I want to leave a legacy to all my peers and loved ones and people that are around me, even in my job, that I can be a Christian and I can stand up for what is right. … You can be a virgin, and feel free and feel happy about who you are.”

Several “A Promise to Keep” peer mentors also spoke during the program.

Bishop Chatard High School senior Sarah DeNardin of Indianapolis told the teenagers that her parents, teachers and coaches taught her about morals and values, and she enjoys sharing the abstinence message with adolescents.

“I want the best for all of these kids,” Sarah said. “I find it helpful … to encourage them to choose sensible paths in their life.”

Serving as a chastity peer mentor “has strengthened my morals and values,” she said, “so that I will be able to uphold them throughout my life.”

Cardinal Ritter High School senior Josh Miller of Indianapolis said completing four years of high school has helped him “realize that the epitome of a person’s character shines through what [he or she] stands for.”

Now, more than ever, he said, “it is vital that we rise to the occasion and speak out, promoting a life of physical integrity and respect. … That is why the teaching of abstinence is so essential to the creation of a promising future. That is why I am so grateful to this program for providing students like myself with direction.”

Teenagers are called “to defend each other’s lives, even when we make mistakes,” Josh said. “… True love will wait. … We must make the right choices. By age 18, over 50 percent of people have had premarital sex. Don’t be a statistic. Be yourself.” †

Local site Links: