October 16, 2009

Catholic Education Outreach / Margaret Hendricks

Chastity education changes lives

When the Archdiocese of Indianapolis developed a peer mentoring program titled “A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality” in 1994, the vision was to empower teenagers to take a leadership role in promoting the virtue of chastity.

When asked about the effectiveness of “A Promise to Keep,” I can quote findings from the program evaluation by Purdue University researchers.

However, it is the “real life” witnesses who speak to the heart of this program and of chastity education in our archdiocese. The four people in this column represent the many people who are living chastely today. May their witness encourage others.

Chris served in “A Promise to Keep” and after graduation entered the military. His fiancée, Stephanie, attended college. The couple pledged to be pure until their wedding. Chris said he experienced “peer pressure” in the military as a result of his decision.

“Honestly, it was tough, especially when I was deployed for a year at a time,” he recalled. “Some guys teased me, but I know I encouraged some men to remain faithful to their wives back home.”

Talk about lives changed!

There is the high school senior whose name I choose to withhold. She compromised her values and regrets the choices she made as a sophomore when she dated a senior and became sexually active. No surprise—he dumped her and left for college.

Entering her junior year, reality hit hard.

“I had two choices,” she said. “I could stay on the same path or I could pick myself up, recommit to my virtues and do the hard work necessary to restore my reputation. I regained my self-esteem and experienced the beauty of reconciliation. My friends helped me see myself as God sees me.”

When mentoring freshman girls, she offered this advice, “I don’t want any of you to make the mistakes [that] I did. I stand before you today committed to living a chaste life, and I will not have sex again until I marry. Choose friends wisely, pray for your future spouse, and if you fall to pressure, get up and seek forgiveness.”

Talk about lives changed!

Aaron graduated last May, and recently sent a message to me.

“I was afraid of the peer pressure I would face at college,” he wrote. “Being in ‘A Promise to Keep’ instilled something special in me. … I am proud to say I am waiting until I am 21 to drink so I can break society’s standards and, yes, I really am saving sex for marriage! It was hard at first to actually say ‘no’ to these pressures the first few times, but as time progressed and I resisted more, the easier it was for me to say ‘no.’ Being a role model in ‘A Promise to Keep’ has strengthened my commitment. Had I not been as strong, my life would be radically different, and I would be on a different path right now.”

Talk about lives changed!

This weekend, I will celebrate the wedding of friends, Bill and Donna. Bill is a 58-year-old widower whose wife of 35 years died of leukemia. He met Donna through his pastor. They made a choice to date chastely. He says most friends assumed they would be sexually intimate before the wedding.

Bill reflected on their decision to wait.

“I loved Marilyn deeply and faithfully for 35 years,” he said. “We were young when we married, but together we learned the sacredness of marriage. By waiting, I am not only giving Donna the respect and reverence she deserves, but I am honoring Marilyn’s legacy, too. Besides, I can’t tell my grandchildren to live chastely if I cannot model it in my own life.”

Talk about changing lives!

(Margaret Hendricks is the coordinator of the “A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality” program in the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education.)

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