Yvette Borque, left, and Fr. Justin Bertrand are leading a Theology of the Body session at St. Hedwig’s Parish. Photo by Gabriela Pariseau

Pembroke diocese expands Theology of the Body program for students

By  Gabriela Pariseau, Youth Speak News
  • November 14, 2018

BARRY'S BAY, Ont. – Every week, Kayla Pires travels 70 kilometres to St. Hedwig’s Parish in Barry’s Bay, Ont., so she can learn more about her faith. 

St. Hedwig’s is hosting a Theology of the Body for Teens program until Nov. 27 and Pires’ parents make the one-hour drive from their home in Bancroft so their daughtercan attend the weekly evening sessions. For Pires, the drive is totally worth it because it allows her to be with peers who have a passion for her faith. 

“It’s like a pilgrimage every time really,” said Pires, a Grade 12 student at North Hastings High School. “I’m in a public school so being around people that are like me in my youth, it’s just really helpful. And learning about this in general is just a really good thing in a public school to have because there’s always challenges in that area.”

The 10-week course, run by the Family Life and Youth Ministry Office at the Diocese of Pembroke, is geared towards homeschooled and public high school students. The program is an expansion of a similar course based on Jason Everett’s “YOU: Life, Love and Theology of the Body” program which was implemented in the diocese’s two English-speaking Catholic high schools in 2015. 

Yvette Borque, director of the Family Life and Youth Ministry office, said the initiative came from working with young couples in the marriage preparation program. Many of the young couples were only learning about Theology of the Body for the first time and she realized that formation needed to begin at a younger age. 

“We thought it would be a great idea to run the youth program … so that when we get them in marriage prep they’ve heard this before. It’s not something totally new and totally off the wall from what they’ve lived,” she said. “That way they have heard this in high school and have had a chance to start making some good habits and start down a good path with their sexuality.”

Everything contained in the curriculum complies with Ontario Grade 9 standards of family and sexuality components, said Borque. However, the diocesan program also offers a broader understanding of the human person which gives youth a foundation to build on when trying to grasp Church teaching on bigger issues.

“It puts it in a more logical order because it progresses as we go,” she said. “We start with created for love. Why were we created? Why did God make us? Why are we here? Why did He make us male and female? Why didn’t He make us seven or eight different kinds of sexes? Why is there only two? What does this point to? What does this mean? It progresses … and it just builds up so that we can cover and have some background before we start into the tough topics like homosexuality, contraception, gender dysphoria, abortion (and) pornography.”

Pires encounters these issues often in her student life. In her health class, the students were brought to a local clinic where they were introduced to birth control and condoms. She said it was only after this visit that the teacher briefly mentioned things like pre-marital abstinence and purity.

Pires said Theology of the Body has given her the perspective she needs to respond to both these normalized evils and typical teenage situations.

“If a guy were to ask me out on a date or something like that, I know how to react and what I would want from that person instead of just saying yes automatically,” she said. “I just think that all teenagers should experience this in some way. Even though I’m in Grade 12 and I’ll be going off to college, it’s just a really good aspect for me in general. And if people knew about this before they got married, they would benefit from it.”

(Pariseau, 20, is a third-year Catholic studies student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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