Teenagers tune into chastity
More than 1,800 eighth-graders attend second annual Chastity Day sponsored by Catholic women’s council and offices of youth and respect life - Julie Conrey (Miami)
Bring up human sexuality around most teens and you’re likely to meet with dead silence and blank stares. But these eighth grade Catholic elementary school students stomped, clapped and sang about it.
The students, along with teachers and chaperones from 12 schools in southern Miami-Dade County, attended the second annual Chastity Day at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School on February 11. The event was one of four hosted at area high schools by the Archdiocese of Miami’s Respect Life Office, Youth Office and the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.
More than 1,800 students from more than 40 Catholic elementary schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties took part in this year’s Chastity Day.
Featuring hip, loud music, interactive games, computer-generated graphics and several dynamic local speakers, the event was not an awkwardly-given, hastily-delivered “birds and bees” recitation from out-of -touch adults.
“This is needed,” said Marlene San Miguel, chaperone for St. Agatha School students. “The children have too many temptations out there. The parents don’t know the music the kids are listening to. I wonder how many parents will ask their kids what they got out of it.”
“It’s good for them to hear this message from someone dynamic,” said Natalia Cadiecedo, chaperone for Epiphany School students. “They are being bombarded and a lot of parents aren’t there to help them channel it.”
“Young people today are pressured into hedonistic lifestyles that in the short and long-run lead to empty and unhappy lives,” said Claretian Sister Ondina Cortes, director of the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “Showing them the way to chaste love is empowering them to live full and joyous lives.”
“I am here to learn how you can deal with issues in your life,” said Amanda Brannon, 13, a student at Holy Rosary School in Homestead.
“I’m here to learn how to deal with temptation,” said her classmate, Kathleen Ochipa. Chastity Day kicked off with a reminder of how special children are in God’s eyes.
“You have no idea how valuable and special you are because God loves you. You are his masterpiece,” said Barbara Grogan, director of education for the Respect Life Office.
The media and popular music play a central role in promoting unchaste lifestyles, said presenter Gerard John, who has a master’s in social work. He played snippets from today’s hit songs and showed the students clips from popular television shows “Everwood” and “Fifth Wheel.”
“Girls, do not let someone place you as a fifth wheel,” John said. “You are too special for that.”
He told the students that while it is normal and okay to ask someone on a date, everyone is called to be chaste. And stepping outside of God’s plan for sexuality comes with a price.
Pregnancy is not the only result of premarital sex, said John. “Pregnancy is survivable.”
Sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and human papilloma virus, are incurable, and can lead to a lifetime of physical and emotional pain.
“There is no condom in the world that protects you from emotional pain, from spiritual pain,” he said.
The students also received ATM cards (Abstinence ‘Til Marriage) emblazoned with the message, “True Love Waits.”
“Eighth graders are about to go to that exciting place of high school,” said Colleen Riley, event coordinator for Chastity Day. “They are questioning their own sexuality and boy-girl relationships. We believe they benefit by spending a day learning about the lifestyle of chastity in a fun-filled atmosphere. They look at their future like it’s next Tuesday. We want them to think about their future in terms of eternity.”
According to the Website of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, approximately 20,000 teens between the ages of 15 to 19 years old living in Florida gave birth in 2000.