When the Goretti Group speaks, even tough crowds listen. Founder Angela King remembers the “reception” she got from a vocational school in Pennsylvania as she prepared to present the group’s vision of purity and chastity. Kids came in with their arms folded and their faces pursed. Many left with guard down and mouth up, smiling to signal gratitude.
“So many hearts are bruised and broken, they’re ready to try something new,” says King. “They’ve already lived the lie of the sexual revolution and they’ve seen the pains of divorce. As we offer them a mirror to see their dignity, the walls come down. When they see we care, hearts open up."
King says that even bigger things happen on weekend retreats with all-night Eucharistic adoration, a priest hearing confessions and Mass. On these getaways, “Christ has a lot more time to be with them and speak to them and heal them,” she says.
In a nutshell, the Goretti Group presents an answer to popular culture’s propositioning of teens into a life of licentiousness and promiscuity. “We offer a life of purity that leads to a deep understanding of the gift of true love and freedom,” explains King.
The truth works. Just ask Father Ed Horning about the results. He invited the Goretti Group three years running to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in El Centro, Calif., where he was an associate pastor.
The organization, he says, “speaks of renewal of the culture particularly to our young adults teaching them purity, how to be men and women — and they do it in such a fresh way.” When kids hear from a voice close to their age speaking the truth about the source of real happiness and joy, he adds, it becomes “cool” to follow Christ.
Last year, the kids were asked to promise to be chaste until marriage. Father Horning watched more than half the 120 teens who attended make this pledge, sign a chastity card and be prayed over at Mass. “That was a dream come true,” says the priest.
Among the teens who signed the chastity pledge was 17-year-old Vanessa Hernandez. “I have it in my wallet,” she says. “Every time I see the card, it reminds me how all of us teenagers made the pledge from our hearts and how we’re connected. I know I made the pledge from my heart.”
It was only after much prayer, reading and reflection that “Angie” King founded the Goretti Group in 2002.
“I was trying to find what my vocation was, what was I created to do,” she says. While serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy, she felt called to the consecrated life — and to chastity education. “I was in front of the Blessed Sacrament and felt God lighting me up with these ideas to form one team of people who are passionate about spreading the idea and work of chastity everywhere to make a difference.”
For a time the group operated under the auspices of Culture of Life Family Services. (For more on that group, see “Doing Catholic Healthcare Right” in the Register’s Aug. 5-11 issue.) And the San Diego Diocese’s Office of Marriage and Family Life heartily endorsed its work.
Says Jan Keith, who co-directs the office with her husband Don Keith, “We’re thrilled to have them in the diocese with the way they reach out to the young people, especially those who are really trying to live their lives in a chaste, wholesome, holy way despite what’s going on in the secular world.”
By offering speakers of varying ages and backgrounds, the Goretti Group’s speakers bureau can reach out to a broad array of audiences.
“Because the common understanding of love is what Hollywood and the media message give us, we begin with what love is,” explains King. “Then, through personal examples and witness, we deliver the message in a clear but compassionate way.”
The same approach works when it comes to answering common questions. “Why can’t I use contraception?” … “How far is too far?” … “How is this going to make me happy?”
“One thing about the Goretti Group is the whole support system it offers those trying to embrace a chaste lifestyle,” says Carol Gamara, a Goretti Group speaker. “They know they are not alone and it’s okay to live a chaste lifestyle.”
Help for Hollywood
A retreat for young girls titled “Princess, Daughter of the King,” starts with what kids know from the culture.
“Be skinny, look like this model, be sexually available — we untwist those lies,” says King. “We infuse how they really are nobility and truly are princesses in the Kingdom of God. Their Father is the king.”
A similar retreat for boys redefines what it means to be a man in God’s Kingdom and explains where their identity comes from as protectors, providers and warriors fighting for the good of the Kingdom.
The group even has a Hollywood outreach in which up-and-coming actors are trained to teach chastity and encouraged to live it.
King has started traveling nationally with the Goretti Group.
“New avenues are opening up because of technology and John Paul II’s call to use the media to evangelize,” King says. The Goretti Group has a DVD with a talk for parents. And, on Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. Pacific time, the group will hold its first online chastity talk.
King sees these efforts as one way to help the Church make disciples of all nations, per Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. “This,” she says, “is an answer to his rally cry.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.