Chastity Education Program Expanding in Archdiocese
By JULIANN DosSANTOS

Living a life of chastity isn’t easy.

But it is achievable with faith, education and the proper tools and resources. That’s the belief of the chastity education coordinator of the archdiocese, who has been meeting with students, teachers and parents about this important virtue.

Kimberly Burdette was hired as the full-time chastity education coordinator for the archdiocese in 2009, thanks to a grant given to the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office. In the past two years, she has delivered talks beginning with seventh- and eighth-graders in religious education programs and Catholic schools, and she is creating resources for parents and teachers on the topic of chastity.

“My job is to be a resource to parents, teens, teachers and administrators so they can better pass on the beautiful teachings of the Church on love, chastity and human sexuality,” Ms. Burdette said.

She has written talks, lesson plans and other supplemental materials on chastity, and is in the process of creating parent guides based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with activities and conversation starters for parents of children and teens at different ages and stages of development and understanding that will be available next year. Chastity, she said, is “reserving all sexual actions and thoughts for your spouse to affirm your love for them.”

While living a life of chastity may be countercultural, it is one that young people are hungry for, Ms. Burdette said.

“They’re tired of having low expectations given to them by society,” she said.

Ms. Burdette, 27, said that discussing chastity is difficult for children, as well as for parents and teachers, particularly in today’s world. “One of the needs expressed was that parents needed the information and resources to be the primary educator of their children,” she said, adding that in many cases, “parents didn’t know what to say and what the Church taught.”

Sister Veronica Mary, S.V., director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office told CNY, “There has been a collaborative effort between the Catechetical Office, the Superintendent of Schools and our office on how we could get the message of chastity out to our schools, and to our young.”

Ms. Burdette, who holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from James Madison University and a master’s in elementary education from Towson University, spent a year researching and examining curriculum and developing the materials used.

She noted that the chastity talks have been prepared and given to middle-school students, as well as Catholic school teachers of seventh- and eighth-graders, because “the message has to start early.”

“We have to give them the hope that they can live this life with chastity before high school, at a time when they are starting to form their own beliefs,” she said.

She noted that seventh and eighth grade is already a “prime time for temptation and peer pressure” but hopes the talks and continued conversations with parents and teachers “strengthens them in their choices.”

She also cited the example of others. Ms. Burdette and the Family Life/Respect Life Office have teamed up with Generation Life, a Philadelphia-based program with post-college volunteers who donate a year of service to give chastity talks while living a life of chastity themselves. The program will begin in the archdiocese in the fall, focusing on talks in archdiocesan high schools.

Ms. Burdette said, “It’s not an easy way of living, but there is a huge movement of young people choosing to live this way.” She said that for the message of chastity to be successful, teenagers and young people need to hear parents and teachers discuss it, and they need to see people living it. “It needs to encompass everybody,” she said.

“Chastity is the solution to the problem of promiscuity, divorce and abortion,” she said. “If we live chaste lives, we won’t have those problems with sex outside of marriage.”

Ms. Burdette also discussed the relationship between the pro-life and chastity messages. “The pro-life message is a message of love. It's a message that acknowledges the dignity and worth of every human being—that you are a unique, valuable, unrepeatable person. The chastity message cannot be separated from the pro-life message. Chastity affirms each person’s dignity and worth as a man or woman made in God’s image and likeness and draws us to the good for which God created us.”

For information on chastity education, or to find out how to volunteer with Generation Life within the archdiocese, visit: www.flrl.org/Chastity.htm or email Ms. Burdette at Kimberly.Burdette@archny.org.

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