The Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office works tirelessly to educate people of all ages on the Church teachings on issues of life, from conception to natural death.
While it is always hard to educate young people on such topics as abortion, premarital sex, the transmission of sexual related illness and other health issues, the most difficult group to reach and educate are high school-aged girls and boys. The combination of outside influences and the reality that many teens do not have a solid understanding of Church Teaching, makes any discussion challenging.
To help reach the students in Diocesan Catholic High Schools, Diocese Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux reached out to Pam Stenzel, a national speaker and founder of Enlighten Communications, with more than 25 years’ experience speaking to teens around the world. She is currently the senior regional clinic coordinator for Community Pregnancy Clinics of Southwest Florida, with special focus on Gainesville and Sarasota.
“The idea to have Pam speak came about when we had another speaker talk to the students in 2015, and afterwards a survey was done. Many of the students, even after the presentation, were sympathetic to the idea of abortion in cases of rape. Pam does a great job on this issue since her birthmother was raped.”
While it was planned to have Stenzel give a presentation at each high school in April, these were cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. When distance learning became the new normal for Diocesan schools, it was decided that Stenzel would record her presentation and each of the Diocesan high schools would incorporate it into the May lesson plan for graduating seniors.
The hour-long video covers a variety of topics and teachers were provided with a list of discussion questions.
Stenzel said her goal for the presentation was that no one would be able to watch her talk and leave and never again have to say to a physician, to a counselor, or to a future husband or wife – “nobody told me” about the consequences of premarital sex.
“Today you are going to be told, and whatever you choose to do after our time together is 100 percent up to you,” she stressed. “I don’t decide what you are going to do about sex… The choice is yours. Your parents can’t choose for you. Some of them might wish they could… All we can do is love you. Tell you the truth and pray you make good choices.”
Starting with the basics, Stenzel explained that God created sex – but with boundaries. He also created choice, knowing that there would be pain, suffering and even death as a consequence when one steps outside of the boundaries.
The boundaries created by God are to contain sex within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, she added, “not just when you are in love or have a warm fuzzy feeling. In the Sacrament… This is the rule. If you are not married, don’t do it. If you have sex outside of the context of one monogamous marriage, there is a cost: physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
She spoke about how young girls come to pregnancy clinics in fear of being pregnant, and how they are suddenly relieved if that test in negative. Of course, Stenzel must ask the follow-up questions of whether the girl has been tested for more than a dozen sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many of these STDs have horrible and lasting side-effects. In fact, she added that young girls are 10 times more likely to receive an STD than to get pregnant during a sexual encounter. “They are not at all worried about getting an STD, they are worried only about getting pregnant. Unbelievable!”
While talking about many different topics, Stenzel spoke extensively on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and what it means to love someone freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully, noting that it takes integrity, respect and courage to wait to have sex until married. “You are worth it.”
The frankness of Stenzel is necessary to get her powerful message across. She stresses that she is not trying to upset or scare anyone but wants the teens to all know the price of having sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage. “Knowledge will help you make the decision that is right for you.”
She left them with the advice to seek out the Catholic community wherever they are going to college, noting that it will be exponentially harder to live their Faith in the years ahead, thus having a solid connection to the Catholic Church will give them the strength they need.