SAN DIEGO — Educating young people about God’s plan for healthy relationships and human sexuality is a daunting task, especially in a sex-saturated society that misunderstands the Church’s teachings on the issue.
Fortunately, for Catholic parents, catechists, educators and others, help is on the way.
The Family Life Education Curriculum Fair will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 22, at Our Mother of Confidence Parish in University City.
Co-sponsored by four diocesan offices – Family Life and Spirituality, Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, Schools, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry – the event showcases Catholic publishers and family life ministries that offer educational materials focusing on formation in the areas of human love, sexuality and relationships.
John Prust, director of the Office for Family Life and Spirituality, said the Church needs “to step up our game a little bit” when it comes to teaching young people about God’s beautiful plan for the human body, relationships and marriage.
“Whatever milieu you’re in” — whether a parent, a teacher, a catechist, or a youth minister — “we need to be doing something to help,” said Prust, “because, otherwise, our youth may be formed in a way that will make it more difficult for them to form healthy and holy relationships.”
“With all the things happening in the world and in the culture, we need to make sure that the Church has a good response,” echoed Joseph Horejs, associate director of the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry.
“We know that our students are getting more and more messages that we disagree with, (and at) earlier and earlier ages,” he said, referring to controversial sex-education curricula introduced in California’s public schools in recent years.
Horejs said there is a lot of misunderstanding, not only of what the Church teaches about sexuality, but also about “the gift” of sexuality itself.
The organizations invited to participate in the curriculum fair include: Ascension Press, RCL Benziger, Theology of the Body Evangelization Team, Love Ed, Pearl & Thistle, Teen STAR and Ruah Woods.
“By no means do we have every organization (represented) here, just a sampling of some of the best that we’ve discovered … and we wanted to let our people know what’s out there,” said Horejs, who hopes these programs will be implemented at more parishes following the fair.
Prust said the participating organizations focus on different aspects and take different approaches.
For example, Love Ed seeks to empower parents to speak confidently to their children about sex and healthy relationships. Teen STAR is a fertility awareness course that students have to opt in to participate. Pearl & Thistle is a resource for moms to have important conversations with their teenage daughters.
Despite their differences, Prust said, all of them are complementary and rooted in Pope St. John Paul II’s influential teachings on human sexuality, which are known collectively as the Theology of the Body.
During the fair, representatives of each organization will have the opportunity to briefly explain their programs. Attendees will be able to visit the various organizations’ tables, asking questions and learning more about the materials they are offering, including some in Spanish. The afternoon will continue with a series of breakout sessions on specific topics, such as how to teach Theology of the Body to teens and how to provide age-appropriate fertility awareness education. Some of these sessions will be in Spanish.
The Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry held its own curriculum fair on the same topic last year, offering it virtually via Zoom.
Prust said the fact that the upcoming fair is a collaboration among a diverse group of diocesan offices sends a message: This isn’t just for parish catechists.
“With all of our offices involved,” he said, “it’s really communicating the fact that … we all need to be involved in this and feeling more confident in sharing the good news about God’s plan for love, marriage and healthy relationships.”
The event is free, and lunch is included, but registration is required at sdcatholicdisciples.net.