March 23, 2018

A Promise to Keep mentors honored for giving ‘great witness’

By Natalie Hoefer

For more than 20 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, and encourages and supports the mentors in living and embracing those values as well.

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 ones deserving recognition.

Each year, the peer mentors are invited to a luncheon celebrating their service and dedication. This year, 163 of the 365 mentors attended the event at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis on March 8.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson welcomed the youths and lauded them for their actions and example.

“I thank you for your great witness, not only for being here today, but for all that you do and the commitment that you have made, and the convictions and principles you’re living,” he said.

“By our baptism, each of us is called to be a witness to the Gospel. You live out that witness every day. … You’ll never know how many lives you may be transforming … . The witness that you live that brought you here today is making an incredible difference. I thank you for that.”

The event featured a keynote address by Sarah Bauer Sansone, a 2000 graduate of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. Sansone has released three albums of uplifting music: Delighting in Dreams in 2004, Lead Me Home in 2005, which she wrote with Christopher Sansone, and Radiance in 2007. She also performed at World Youth Day in Germany in 2005. She and Christopher are now married and have three children.

Before the keynote address, five current mentors shared their stories and thoughts about the APTK program. Below are excerpts from their talks.

Ben Wilson, senior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis

Ben Wilson“I came from a public grade school so I was not exposed to A Promise to Keep when I was young. It was my parents’ involvement in the Church that provided a foundation of morals that led me to make the choice to become a peer mentor.

“What originally enticed me to become a peer mentor was the fact that I got to go around to grade schools and actually talk about having good morals and making good choices. … I felt called by the Holy Spirit to become a mentor, and I did.

“Since becoming a mentor three years ago, I have grown deeper in my faith. I now feel that I have the strongest relationship with God that I have ever had.

“I enjoy being able to help the kids that we speak to figure out the true meaning of chastity and what it means to live with good morals. … I believe that even if the kids do not originally think anything of what we are saying, that there is a seed that gets planted, just like in Matthew 13, that will one day spark a voice in the back of their heads that might possibly prevent them from making a bad decision. It is the planting of that seed that I hold to be the most important thing we do as mentors.”

Elena Redmond, senior at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis

Elena Redmond“I’ve been a mentor for three years, and each year it has helped me grow as a person. Personally, it has shown me how to live a better and chaste life and to not give into the pressures that I have encountered during high school. By being in this program, it has given me the wisdom to choose the right friends who have the same values that I do.

“Although I didn’t have mentors come to my school when I was in middle school, I wish they did. From middle school to high school, my mom has always told me to wait until marriage to have sex.

“Being a part of A Promise to Keep has allowed me to be stronger and more confident and independent because I know that not everyone who comes in your life is there to help you, and this will carry on when I am in college in the fall.

“[T]his program … allows not only the middle schoolers to learn about living a chaste life, it teaches the mentors more about themselves and how they want to live their lives. This program is definitely life-changing, and without it I don’t know where I would be today.”

Lorena Luna, senior at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis

Lorena Luna“Being an A Promise to Keep mentor has impacted me personally because I have been able to help junior high students learn about the consequences of sex, drugs and alcohol, since they don’t realize the pain those things can cause. …

“A Promise to Keep has helped me in my decisions because I think of the consequences my actions could bring. My friends and I all share the same belief and opinion that we should respect our bodies, and others should do the same.

“We encourage each other to save ourselves for marriage so that one day we can share our experiences with our kids and grandkids, teaching them that our bodies are something sacred that God gave us. Surrounding myself with friends that are supportive has definitely made me feel good about myself and what I believe in.

“A Promise to Keep has been helpful in so many ways that I hope to carry this promise through college and beyond. I think it’s important to continue A Promise to Keep and similar programs to help young adults make wise decisions and reflect on how the results of their choices affect their future. In this way, they can set an example for their siblings, friends and loved ones while making sure they are as happy as can be without the temptation of sex, drugs or alcohol.”

Wes Kochell, junior at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis

Wes Kochell“The A Promise to Keep program has been instrumental in the education of the archdiocese elementary students and in the spiritual formation of its high school peer mentors. As A Promise to Keep Mentors, my friends and I have had so much fun traveling to the [Indianapolis] West Deanery schools to teach the message of chastity to our own friends and siblings.

“The A Promise to Keep program has not only proven successful in preparing students for the moral challenges of adolescence and beyond, but also in preparing them for high school by providing such great peer mentors.

“Going forward, [with] the amazing education provided to my friends and I in Catholic schools and the guidance provided by the A Promise to Keep presentations we received in junior high, we are more prepared for what lies ahead than any other high schooler our age.

“Thank you Mrs. Hendricks, Archbishop Thompson and the rest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for offering such a great opportunity to us, as mentors, and to the kids who can now live their lives understanding God’s teaching of eternal love.”

Sam Hansen, senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis

Sam Hansen“It is a privilege and an honor to have the opportunity to educate young kids over a topic as important as chastity and its impact on our lives. We, as high schoolers, have all been in positions that have challenged our purity and well-being, and I love that we can explain the truth of these to kids personally before they encounter them, … teach[ing] them how to be chaste by living our lives as God calls us to.

“Even though it is designed to help the children we minister to, A Promise to Keep has given me benefits that I never expected. While it does serve as a source of purpose and personal accountability, the most important skill it has given me is the ability to proclaim and testify to my faith.

“Of course, we not only will have to explain and testify to Catholicism, but we will face the challenge of living it as well. … When we put to good use the lessons that we have both taught and learned through A Promise to Keep, we ourselves will experience the rewards of chastity.

“[W]e might not see the positive impacts of A Promise to Keep immediately, but one day when we look back on how we faced challenges to our own faith and how we have become better people from rising above those challenges, we will be even more grateful for this opportunity than we already are.”
 

(For more information on the A Promise to Keep program, go to oce.archindy.org/a-promise-to-keep.aspx or contact Margaret Hendricks at 317-236-1478, 800-382-9836, ext. 1478, or at mhendricks@archindy.org.)

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