Today’s teens are faced with an influx of messages on a sensitive and often controversial topic — the role of sex in human life.
“They are being taught that sex is to be explored, experienced and is designed for self-gratification,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver.
“God, through the Catholic Church, has a beautiful plan for the human person and a road map for a much more fulfilling purpose for their identity and sexuality that will lead them on a road to happiness,” she said.
That’s where TeenSTAR comes in, a program that helps teens develop prudence and communication skills when it comes to sexual behavior.
TeenSTAR is located in about 35 countries and and has been around since 1980. Now, with the support of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, it will be an option for youth in the Archdiocese of Denver.
“What is unique about the TeenSTAR program is that it is based on understanding and valuing one’s sexuality and “Teens are taught about how their bodies work and the proper purpose for the gift of their sexuality,” she said. “As they integrate this knowledge properly into their self-concept, they are guided to healthy and virtuous behaviors.”
The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries will sponsor TeenSTAR teaching training at the end of June this year.
Set up as a two-semester long curriculum designed to occur for one hour each week, TeenSTAR is open to any Catholic school with middle or high school students, but each school principal will decide whether or not the school will offer it.
“It can be a part of a school’s curriculum, run as an after-school program or connected to a youth ministry program,” Keating explained, and instructors can be school teachers, youth ministers or volunteers.
Archdiocesan leaders are excited for the opportunities TeenSTAR will bring.
“I support programs like TeenSTAR that instruct our teens on the meaning of their bodies, how to understand them, and to present this knowledge in the context of the virtue of chastity,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a letter of support for TeenSTAR.
Sister Hanna Klaus, the program’s Executive Director, explained the program is set up to cater to teens and help them sort out any curiosity or confusion they might have.
Students are encouraged to ask questions, guiding the class with what they want to know. Sister Klaus is not concerned teaching about how their bodies work will lead to immoral behavior.
“Parents are afraid that if you give kids information, they will misuse it,” she said. “The fact is they could — they have free will. But our behavioral outcomes show that rarely happens.
“When kids own their fertility, they give it a high value.”
According to Keating, the teenage years are a crucial time to reach young people in this area as they start to transition into adulthood.
“They are in a place where society around them is strongly influencing their lives,” she said. “Teens are trying to make sense of who they are, what they believe and what they want to do in life, so they are in an open but vulernable stage.
“The teenage brain is still developing, and it’s controlled more by emotion than logic,” she said. “TeenSTAR equips them to rationally connect and understand their bodies and the behaviors they choose in life.”