December 21, 2012

Catholic Education Outreach / Margaret Hendricks

Theology of the Body program will help form adults

The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE) introduced a chastity program, “A Promise to Keep,” in 1994. The program was the first of its kind—a peer-facilitated, pro-active, preventive health model that addresses challenging issues facing teenagers and adolescents. St. Vincent Health has been a faithful partner with the archdiocese since the beginning of this initiative.

There is now both scientific and anecdotal evidence to support the effectiveness of the program as well as the attitudinal changes created among mentors and the adolescents they serve.

To date, there have been about 9,500 teenagers who have served as peer mentors. The average age of these mentors and former mentors is about 27, with the first group of mentors from 1994 turning 35 this year.

While our success is well documented in this ministry to teenagers, we have identified a growing need to provide adult education in the areas of chastity and sexuality.

The Theology of the Body Institute (TOBI) in Quarryville, Pa., offers some outstanding courses on the teachings of Blessed John Paul II on “The Theology of the Body” and Catholic sexual ethics. These courses provide 30 hours of graduate-level instruction in a retreat setting designed to meet the spiritual and educational needs of participants in a powerful way.

We are very blessed that Our Sunday Visitor has generously granted OCE the funds necessary to send a diverse group of 14 adults from the archdiocese to the institute during the 2012-13 program year.

Adults who receive grants to attend TOBI will be able and expected to share their knowledge and influence throughout the archdiocese and beyond. They will form a speakers’ bureau on the teachings of Theology of the Body that will be accessible to Catholic schools and parishes.

In addition to traditional training provided through archdiocesan ministries to schools and parishes, the ministry of these trained presenters has the potential to expand to college campuses, medical and nursing schools, and hospital staffs—just to mention a few possible target populations. The first step is to qualify those people who feel called to this ministry.

In October, Lori Lewis of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, Scott Williams of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis, Ashley Barnett of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, and Sarah Erotas, a campus minister, attended TOBI. They were the first to attend “The Head and Heart Immersion,” Course 1. The funds from Our Sunday Visitor covered the cost of the course and all expenses associated with their attendance.

We are grateful to Our Sunday Visitor for their financial commitment, which is making this initiative possible. Forming adults through TOBI will help prepare them to minister at a grassroots level.

Connecting the Gospel message with lived experience and engaging young adults in “marketplace ministry” strengthens not only their own ability to live out chaste lives and the universal call to holiness, but also their witness will have a powerful ripple effect upon those they encounter.

(Margaret Hendricks is program coordinator of A Promise to Keep in the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education. You can e-mail her at

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