August 19, 2011

Catholic Education Outreach / Margaret Hendricks

A Promise to Keep: Preparing for marriage and family

Margaret HendricksAs the school year begins, I am reminded of the wide range of emotions that parents experience as they send their children off to school.

Whether they are entering kindergarten, first grade or transitioning to junior high, high school or college, each phase of parenting creates new opportunities and, yes, some challenges for parents “to be parents!”

Since the 1994-95 school year when our archdiocesan chastity program “A Promise to Keep” (APTK) was first introduced, about 9,000 high school students have served as volunteer peer mentors in the program. These mentors and former mentors now range in age from 17 to 34 years old, with an average age of about 26. Many of these young adults are marrying and becoming parents.

As coordinator for APTK, I look forward to the beginning of the school year because I find the energy of our teens to be invigorating.

I am filled with hope for the Church and her teachings on chastity because I find most teens are searching for truth and honesty in their relationships.

From my experience, this search for knowledge and understanding of their faith continues as they make their way into college and the workforce, and especially as many of them prepare for and enter into married life and start their families.

Over the years, I am always honored to be invited to witness the marriage of these young adults. It is in this context that I came to realize that APTK is not just a chastity program. It is also wonderful preparation for marriage and effective parenting.

The majority of my work involves working directly with high school students, but in this column I want to affirm and encourage parents and young adults, such as our former mentors, who strive to do God’s will day in and day out.

Parents are by vocation the first and primary educators of their children.

As good as our Catholic schools are, the effectiveness of a Catholic education in our schools is in direct proportion to the involvement of parents and their commitment to be educators of their children.

The most important job of parents is to instill values and virtues in their children. This begins from the time the children are very young.

Parents need to instill virtues in their children that will help protect their innocence.

It is important to teach them, “Say no when you need to!”

Hold children accountable for their actions, and have courage!

Even the best educators cannot take the place of parents who are committed to the education and faith formation of their children.

I stand on the premise that no one can love a child more than his or her parent.

Building strong and virtuous families is essential to the future of our society and our Church. This does not happen by chance. It takes hard work and prayers.

As this school year begins, please pray daily for couples preparing for marriage and also for young parents so that they will find the courage to live out our universal call to holiness and instill this in their children.

(Margaret Hendricks is coordinator of A Promise to Keep. Contact her at

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