April 29, 2016

Program honors youth mentors who say ‘yes to God’

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin chats with a few “A Promise to Keep” mentors from Roncalli High School during a luncheon at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on April 14. (Photos by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin chats with a few “A Promise to Keep” mentors from Roncalli High School during a luncheon at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on April 14. (Photos by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

For 21 years, “A Promise to Keep” has helped more than 10,000 archdiocesan teenagers not just keep their promises to live chaste lives, but also to mentor more than 100,000 junior high students to do the same.

A Promise to Keep (APTK) is a ministry of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools and is co-sponsored by St. Vincent Health. It teaches high school youths to mentor junior high students in chastity and moral living.

Margaret Hendricks and Sylvia Brunette have led the program from the start. Despite more than two decades of dedication, they point to the high school mentors as the real heroes.

Each year, those heroes are invited to a luncheon in their honor. This year, about 150 of the 365 mentors attended the event at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on April 14.

The event featured talks by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and two young married couples, of which three of the individuals are former APTK mentors.

At the conclusion of the lunch, five current mentors shared their stories and thoughts about the APTK program. Below are excerpts from their talks.

Myka RadeckiMyka Radeckia junior at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis

“A big lesson we teach in APTK has stuck with me in maintaining relationships. In my particular section of APTK, we talk about having relationships and how to know if your relationship is a good or bad one. One main thing we talk about is finding a relationship where you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have the same morals as you. …

“Currently in my theology class, we are learning about consciences and the two responsibilities we have in relation to our conscience. The first is to follow our conscience when it is certain. The second is to properly form our consciences.

“I think that APTK takes a huge part in this responsibility. When we are teaching these kids, it may not apply to them in that current moment due to their age, and so they may believe that it is stupid and will not have any impact on their lives.

“However, when we give these kids the knowledge, later on in their lives when this information becomes relevant, they will have it in the back of their mind and will have the knowledge to make the correct decisions.”

Henry SemlerHenry Semlera senior at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis

“I accepted the challenge [to be an APTK mentor] three years ago, and it fits into my life motto: to serve others first, God second, and myself third. … Being involved in APTK has allowed me to build upon my life’s motto and add those ideals to the ‘A Promise to Keep’ program.

“I have surrounded myself with friends that believe in the same motto. Because of that, it has protected me in so many ways. It has protected me against peer pressure, bullying, and the pressure of using drugs, sex and alcohol.

“Being involved in such an important organization during my high school years has helped me grow mentally and spiritually more. It has strengthened my bond with God. I am a stronger, wiser and more mature individual, which will help me encounter my future obstacles.”

Jacob HansonJacob Hansona senior at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis

“A big misunderstanding about dating is that people think it means the couple is already assumed to be boyfriend and girlfriend, when in reality dating should simply be a chance to get to know the other person. The purpose of dating should be finding out whether or not you would possibly want to pursue a relationship with that person in the future.

“Going into college, we face a lot more challenges with keeping our promise. Something young people should remember when going to parties is that you can still have fun without drinking, plus you get to remember your night afterward. It’s not a bad thing to be the one person in the group to say, ‘Guys, we probably shouldn’t do this.’

“Keeping these promises and maintaining our morals is why this program works and is important. Having the ability to hear and share the witness stories gives those of us in APTK an advantage in overcoming the obstacles and temptations we will encounter in our lives.”

Teresa HeckmanTeresa Heckmana senior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis

“Being a part of ‘A Promise to Keep’ for the past three years has been a highly positive experience for me.

“I can remember being a student at St. Simon [School] and having students from Cathedral and Chatard come to speak to my class. I always looked forward to listening to the high school peer mentors from the [A] Promise to Keep program. … They were athletes, servant leaders and scholars, and I looked up to them. They were confident in themselves and in their values, and they were willing to share their beliefs with others. The stories they told and advice they gave about standing up for themselves and not letting others pressure them into doing anything they knew was wrong showed me that it is possible to live a chaste life in high school and beyond—a message different from what the media often shares.

“Because of my involvement in [A] Promise to Keep, my Catholic education, and my family, I am prepared to handle everything that college can throw at me. I know how to stand firm in my beliefs and be proud of my faith. I know how important it is to surround myself with the right group of people.

“A Promise to Keep is a unique and effective program because middle school students look up to students in high school. It is important that middle schoolers realize that it is possible to go through high school having fun, being successful, being involved, and living a chaste life.”

Maria HollowellMaria Hollowella senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis

“As I reflected on my time as being an APTK mentor, the same thought kept running through my head. I began to realize that rather than this banquet serving as a ‘closing party’ for APTK, this is only the beginning. This luncheon does not symbolize the ending for our time in APTK, but rather sending us forth to carry out the mission of APTK that we all spoke about.

“I am here to … remind us of our promises we have made to God. Honestly, we all know there is going to be temptation in college, and that there will be situations that will lure us into the devil. He has a way of working in our lives to blind us and believe that what is right is wrong. He manipulates our minds and tricks us into thinking we are alone. … We are all so fortunate to be in a program like APTK that is a support group of people who will always be there for us and always pray for us.

“I always thought that APTK was a program that taught us how to say ‘no.’ As I thought about it, APTK isn’t us saying ‘no’ to drugs, alcohol and sex, but rather we are saying ‘yes’ to God and his great plan for our lives. We are saying ‘yes’ to opening ourselves to God’s love. We are saying ‘yes’ to protecting our health and future happiness. We are saying ‘yes’ to lives filled with joy. We are saying ‘yes’ to true, authentic love.” †

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