By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Motivational speaker Jason Evert told a group of teenagers a story about a woman whose first memories consisted of her father beating up her mother. The woman, seeking to fill the void of an unloving father, lost her virginity at the age of 15. But, after attending a chastity and purity presentation, the woman decided that she wanted a new start. She chose to save herself for her future husband. It was difficult, but she achieved her goal and has been happily married for 12 years.
The eyes of the crowd at Our Lady of Victory Parish-Davenport grew wide as Evert revealed that the woman in the story was his wife, Crystalina.
For the youths, the story delivered a powerful message that it is never too late to commit to chastity. “I thought it was nice that he said no matter what we’ve done, God still forgives,” said Annie Robinson of St. Paul the Apostle Parish-Davenport. “I liked the story about his wife, how she changed her life,” echoed Annie’s brother, Logan.
Evert, the co-founder of the Chastity Project, spoke to teens and adults at the Davenport parish and at St. Patrick Parish-Iowa City the week of April 24. Additionally, he spoke to Catholic school students throughout the diocese at assemblies. Organizers said more than 2,000 students and 350 parents in the diocese attended the presentations. This diocesan tour was coordinated by Theology of the Body Iowa and sponsored by The Knights of Columbus Councils of Southeast Iowa, KC Insurance, Johnson County Right to Life and private donors.
During his parent presentations, Evert explained that the use of fear tactics is much less effective than making expectations clear, keeping lines of communication open and modeling purity in the home. For example, if a parent wants to discourage their child from using pornography, they should refrain from it themselves. Parents can also take steps to help their children resist temptation; he suggested parents take their teenager’s cell phone away during night hours and implement phone and computer filters.
He emphasized several times that parents who are attentive and loving can help their children avoid the temptations his wife Crystalina faced as a teen seeking love through sex. In his experience talking to teenagers, Evert observes that if a girl feels unloved at home she will often seek out that love from a boyfriend, offering herself physically in hopes that he will stay.
Jackie Newhouse, a member of St. Anthony Parish-Davenport, attended the Davenport parents’ presentation so she could become a more informed mentor to her godson on the subject of chastity.
“I wanted to know how I could help talk to him about what he’s experiencing.” She was shocked to find out how easy it is for teens to access tempting materials on their cell phones and was thankful Evert explained how to stay one step ahead. She appreciated that Evert shared solutions to teenage issues and didn’t just point out the problems.
While talking to teenagers at the parishes and schools, Evert reiterated the message of how easy it can be to seek love in the wrong places. He explained that men and women generally have different ways of communicating and unique emotional responses to intimacy. He’s observed that teenage girls usually have sex to strengthen an emotional connection whereas boys tend to see sex as simply a pleasurable activity or something that will make them feel more masculine and socially accepted. Many girls assume that if they choose to be chaste they won’t be able to maintain a boy’s interest, Evert said. He assured the girls in all of his talks that “good guys” are out there and to stay strong.
Following the talks in Davenport and Iowa City, Evert led a meditative prayer session in which he encouraged the teens to seek God’s love and forgiveness. Local priests were available to hear confessions.
Sheryl Schwager, director of Iowa City Right to Life, was on the committee that organized Evert’s tour. She said the response to his presentation at St. Patrick’s was enthusiastic. Amy Nibaur, a member of St. Patrick’s, said Evert’s talk was empowering and she wished he could come back every few years so all her children would have a chance to hear his talks.
Teens, too, left the presentations with ideas to ponder. Grace Markovich, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish-Bettendorf, felt Evert had a good understanding of what it is like to be a teenager. “He also was serious about what God wants us to be.”
Adam Burke, a member of St. Mary Parish-Davenport, is in middle school and hasn’t had to think about a lot of the topics discussed at the presentation yet. He was happy to know that as he gets older he doesn’t have to give into peer pressure. He can make a choice to wait for marriage and his future soul mate.
The Chastity Project, founded by Jason and Crystalina Evert, offers books, CDs and other resources for parents and teens. Visit their website at www.chastityproject.com.