CUA's Chastity Outreach Ministry was featured in the Feb. 5 issue of the Arlington Catholic Herald . Erin Craine , associate campus minister for women's ministry and social justice, and students Michael Beard , Lauren Joyce and Joan Solomon were quoted in the article. See the article below.
|A group of students from Catholic University is working to inform teenagers about the beauty of chaste living.|
From: Arlington Catholic Herald Date: Feb. 5, 2009 Author: Katie BahrIt's a Monday night in the campus center at Catholic University in Washington and a group of 19 students are sitting on couches and chairs arranged in an oval in Caldwell Hall. Although the students, dressed mostly in T-shirts and jeans, spend a good amount of time laughing and telling stories, they are serious about the group's mission.
They are all part of Catholic University's Chastity Outreach Ministry, a group dedicated to informing young people about chastity and the joys and struggles that go along with it.
Since 2003, the group has traveled around Washington, Maryland and Virginia speaking to middle- and high school students about living chastely. They teach the teenagers what chastity is and why it is important and they give advice, all while serving as role models who are older, but still young enough for the teenagers to be able to relate to.
The ministry - which consists of about 30 members and a core team of five people who lead the discussions - talks about chastity, as well as issues related to chastity, like contraception and pro-life issues. They devote most of their time to visiting with younger students, but they also work to raise awareness on the Catholic University campus.
To prepare themselves for their ministry, the group has weekly formation meetings to learn about and discuss issues related to chastity. This helps ensure they can be experts at answering the questions of middle school, high school and college students.
Senior nursing major Joan Solomon joined Chastity Outreach as a freshman after seeing flyers advertising it around campus. She became a core team member at the beginning of her sophomore year and has been involved in the ministry ever since.
"I used to think of chastity was just not having sex. That's not what it is," Solomon said. "It's changed my perception of relationships between people, friendships and how a dating relationship should go and that sort of thing."
To Solomon, teaching teenagers and other college students about chastity is a "huge responsibility."
"Going to high school students, we're hopefully helping to form the next generation of Catholics, whether they become leaders in the Church or good parishioners or wherever else they end up," Solomon said. "We are so close in age - at most four years out of high school - and we can probably relate to them a little more. I know they look to us as role models and we have that advantage so we can gain a little bit more compared to someone else who might be talking to them, like a teacher."
Sophomore biology major Lauren Joyce is another core team member. She got involved after a friend invited her to one of the meetings. Now she enjoys talking to teenage girls and making sure they realize their own value.
"That's big in my heart - helping them to see how beautiful they are and that they don't have to settle for cheap love and being used for their bodies," Joyce said.
Joyce believes the ministry is important because it helps teach teenagers about how their relationships should be.
"Understanding our sexuality as given by God is the basis for a healthy life," said Joyce. "When you respect yourself and respect other people within the hormone rollercoaster of high school, it keeps relationships better - more focused on God and full of respect."
Senior psychology major Michael Beard has been in Chastity Outreach for two years and currently serves as a core team member. He thinks the ministry is effective because it tells students the realities of chastity and how important it is, while being realistic and acknowledging the challenges.
"This talks about the joys of struggling to live a chaste life from someone older who is still struggling," said Beard. "We can say, 'You know I'm still struggling with it to live this life, but I think it's worth it.'"
Erin Craine, the associate campus minister for women's ministry and social justice, serves as the group's moderator. She said the talks to middle- and high school students offer a sort of alternative lifestyle to the promiscuous depictions of life that teenagers see as normal through television and movies.
"We've been disillusioned by our culture of what happiness is and what it means to live a normal teenage life," Craine said. "This is a fresh message students are able to convey."
"We have to battle those messages out there that chastity is for geeks," Joyce said. "It's not just that we couldn't get anyone to date us like that, but it's because we don't want anybody to date anybody like that."
Last semester, the group only gave a few talks to middle- and high school groups, but this spring, they've already scheduled five. The talks usually take place at parishes on weekends, but the group has also spoken at schools, on weeknights and as far away as New Jersey.
"They are willing to do as much as possible," said Craine. "There are no limits on the numbers of talks they can give."
Currently the group has existing contracts with six youth ministers at parishes where they speak every year. Most of their other bookings come through word-of-mouth recommendations among youth group leaders.
"It's important for us to be here and have an impact and say, 'living chastity is beautiful,'" Solomon said.
"Just knowing God is with us and working through us and that this powerful message is being supported through prayer, is really amazing," Joyce said. "As long as we're humble and keep praying and trying to seek His direction, this message is where He wants us to be and His message will get through."
Find out more
To have the Catholic University chastity outreach ministry talk at your church or school's youth group, call Erin Craine at 202/319-5575 or e-mail email@example.com