In the old convent at St. Cecilia Parish in San Francisco, five 20-something Catholics have moved in with a mission to change San Francisco. Part of a group called Culture Project International, the team of recent college graduates give Theology of the Body inspired talks to school students and young adults on respecting human dignity, the importance of marriage and family, and the value of chastity.
The Culture Project missionaries were invited to the Archdiocese of San Francisco by the Office of Marriage and Family Life and will also collaborate with the youth and young adult ministry. Their eight-month stay in the archdiocese will build on a three-month visit another Culture Project missionary team did last year, when they talked to more than 2,500 students. Missionary Angel Rodriguez told Catholic San Francisco the team has felt welcomed and have begun filling up their speaking schedule.
Culture Project International, founded four years ago, aims to shift people away from what Pope Francis has called a “throwaway culture” toward one that affirms the dignity and worth of every person, especially in sexual relations. By creating a culture of sexual integrity and respect for others, they hope to build a culture of strong marriages and families. Rodriguez said that at the heart of the Culture Project’s message is a simple affirmation: “You are good. You are loved.”
The talks offered by Culture Project missionaries are on “Human Dignity,” “Sexual Integrity” and “Social Media.” Missionaries said while they address different topics during them, they keep the same “cohesive themes” of placing the dignity of the person at the center of every interaction. Prior to going to a school, the missionaries also offer a parent talk, to let parents know what they’ll talk about, and bring parents on board to be a resource for their kids.
“Chastity’s not a one and done deal,” Rodriguez said, but requires parents to be supportive and ready to help their kids.
Many of the missionaries bring their own experiences to the presentations they give. Maura Eckels told Catholic San Francisco the failures of her upbringing led her to doubt the church’s teachings on marriage and family life. It was only in college that she found a community where families lived the church’s teachings in a way that made them believable.
Each talk also offers time for audiences to ask questions and talk to the missionaries. Sharing what the church teaches about pornography and birth control usually gets the most pushback from students.
Talking to high schoolers and middle school students is not the easiest job, the missionaries said.
“They will eat you up,” Genesis Gutierrez said, laughing. “They can dog you, especially on social media.”
Ally Klekas agreed, saying that it can be “nerve wracking” to go in front of audiences, “but the Holy Spirit comes through.”
The missionaries dedicate themselves to Mass and a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament every day, as well as doing continual spiritual formation.
“We need to grow in Christ to do our work well. It’s useless without faith,” said Rodriguez.
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.