Summer program offers safe setting to discuss the issues

PAWLEYS ISLAND—You might think it would be hard to get more than a few teenagers together in one place week after week during the height of summer.

A new summer program at Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island is making it look easy.

Men of Virtue/Women of Grace, for middle and high school students, is regularly drawing more than 30 teens each Wednesday night because it focuses on hot-button issues that youth want to talk about.

It is the brainchild of Elizabeth Ziegler, the parish youth director, who wanted to find a way to keep teens engaged in their faith during the long break.

“I had asked the youth group what they wanted to focus on over the summer, and they all mentioned specific issues like the Catholic stance on homosexuality and other social issues they see in their daily lives,” Ziegler said. “The program offers a safe setting where they can really dive into what the Church has to say about these issues and how they can deal with them.”

The program includes something for both youth and adults.

Ziegler leads the sessions for teen girls while the boys meet with Kyle Lesmes, a seminarian for the Diocese of Charleston who is working at the church during the summer. The groups are separated by gender so youth will feel comfortable bringing up difficult topics.

“There are specific things men go through and specific things women go through, and it can help if they have their own space to talk about it,” Ziegler said.

While the youth attend their sessions, parents meet in a separate discussion group led by parishioners Tim and Tara Joseph focused on the DVD series, “Who Am I to Judge?” — an in-depth study of the dangers of relativism and its impact on modern culture by theologian Edward Sri.

Discussion topics in the girls’ sessions so far have included peer pressure, modesty and self-image.

An especially emotional discussion took place July 5 as the groups discussed suicide and self-harm, an issue especially on the minds of many these days as the result of the popularity of the controversial Netflix series “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which features a teenager posthumously revealing the reasons that led her to commit suicide.

In the boys’ sessions, Lesmes has also addressed what it means to be a young man of faith and what it means to try to live up to the word “gentleman.” One of the harder topics he dealt with was pornography, its constant presence on the internet and in society and how to deal with temptation.

Other topics that will be discussed over the summer include homosexuality, cyber-bullying, dating and how to handle breakups and drugs and alcohol.

“Men of Virtue/Women of Grace” meets each Wednesday through Aug. 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.