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Chastity Project co-founder to speak after initial postponement

After December postponement of Jason Evert’s presentation, a new process to vet speakers is in the works.

Jason Evert, co-founder of the Chastity Project Ministry, will be coming to speak to students about the virtue of chastity on Friday, March 4 after his appearance was postponed in December.

Evert was originally booked to speak at Malvern on Friday, December 11. Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot announced that Evert’s visit would be postponed in an email to parents on December 8.

Some members of the Malvern community have expressed concerns about Evert’s perspectives on modesty and homosexuality. Others believe this program on campus will promote important discussions on Catholic teachings. After the December postponement, The Blackfriar Chronicle published student and alumni perspectives on Evert’s presentation in the December issue.

Talbot’s follow-up email to students on December 16 explained, “With each guest that we invite to campus, we strive to design an inclusive, welcoming, and thoughtful educational experience for all members of our community. We quickly learned that we did not have time to adequately prepare for Jason’s visit. So we have decided to postpone this event until we are able to construct such an experience.”

Four Questions for Jason Evert

Four Questions for Jason Evert

We reached out to the co-founder of Chastity Project with some questions about his upcoming presentation on March 4.

What do you plan to discuss with the Malvern Prep community?

Saint John Paul II said that within each of our hearts is a battlefield between love and lust. If we take an honest and demanding look into ourselves, we will notice this to be true. He also noted that the word “chastity” needs to be rehabilitated. All to often, it is viewed as a negative, prudish, and repressive attitude toward the gift of our sexuality. However, it is none of these things. Rather, it is the virtue that frees us to love.

Unfortunately, John Paul also noted in his book “Love and Responsibility” that when challenged with the message of chastity, some individuals resent it. They see chastity only as an obstacle to obtaining gratification. He explained that because virtue requires effort, some prefer to spare themselves the effort of being chaste, and minimize its importance, mock it, or act as if it’s evil, unhealthy, or unrealistic. To avoid the struggle, they lightheartedly opt for what is comfortable and convenient.

When I speak to the young men at Malvern Prep, I hope to explain that regardless of their past, they can still choose to embrace this virtue and become more free to love. The message will not be rooted in shame or fear tactics, but rather in the demands of authentic human love. If you visit our website (chastityproject.com) and click on “seminars” and then “endorsements” you can see what other teens have said about the presentation.

Can you comment on our school’s choice to reschedule your presentation?

I think it ended up being providential, because when another high school heard I was returning to your area in March, they requested an assembly for their students as well. If your talk had not been rescheduled, hundreds of other students would not have had the opportunity to hear the presentation.

Our Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot has stated, regarding your presentation, that “Hosting a speaker is not an endorsement. It is an invitation to dialogue.” How do you suggest that our community builds dialogue around your views?

The most important thing that your community could do would be to form their opinions of my presentation after it is complete rather then before it begins. As Mr. Talbot noted, true dialogue involves hearing people who come from all walks of life, and discovering how we can learn from each other. I have had the opportunity to speak to more than one million teens on six continents, and when I lecture at such places as Harvard, Princeton, or the United States Air Force Academy, the students take for granted that my presence on their campus is not due to the unequivocal endorsement of their administration. Rather, these institutions of higher learning understand the importance of dialogue, and therefore are not opposed to having me offer my presentation to their students.

What do you hope our student community takes away from your presentation?

Every man struggles with temptations that inhibit our ability to love. My hope is that instead of solely focusing on elements of the speech that they disagree with, each student will open their minds and hearts to grasp onto something in the assembly that will help them to become a better man. In other words, eat the apple and spit out the seeds. (But don’t throw away the seeds, because you might find them to be quite useful one day). In the meantime, I look forward to meeting you all in March. Until then, be assured of my prayers and please include me in yours as well.

According to an email sent to parents, Evert will be speaking to Malvern students from 8th to 12th grade during a morning assembly at Chapel. However, according to Dr. Dorothy Sayers the talk will be in O’Neill Athletic Center and will not include the 8th Grade.

Talbot said that there previously has been no set process to vet guest speakers.

“It’s pretty much been ad hoc,” he said. “If there were no costs associated with it, the person just kind of showed up. If there were some costs, there was obviously a budgetary question.”

I think one way or the other, whether students agree with his perspectives on chastity and celibacy, whether they disagree, I hope that they take away an experience of a serious conversation, one that is intellectually coherent, and one that is also aligned with our Catholic and Augustinian identity.”

Mr. Christian Talbot

Talbot said that after Evert’s visit was postponed in December, he and the Academic Advancement Team, a collection of Administrators, Department Heads, and other members of the academic leadership, drew up plans for a process to vet speakers.

“It’s still in draft form,” Talbot said. “But it goes through all the logical questions you would want to ask before you want to commit to bring someone to campus.”

Now that Malvern has committed to bringing Evert to campus, Talbot and the Academic Advancement Team have placed Theology Department Leader Fr. Chris Drennen, OSA, and School Psychologist Dr. Dorothy Sayers in charge of designing a series of conversations before and after Evert gives his talk.

English teacher Mrs. Nicole Wilkinson, theology teachers Mr. Andrew DiDomenico and Mr. Alexander Haynie, and Biology teacher Mr. Stephen Borish are also involved in planning these conversations.

Drennen said that after Evert speaks, students will report back to homerooms for discussions led by teachers.

“It will be about 10 to 15 minutes,” he said. “Just a little debrief of what happened. Then, after that, whenever anyone is in their theology class next, there will be more processing, and there will be a chance to talk about any issues that arose.”

Drennan said the draft proposal they are presenting includes a faculty meeting before Evert comes. “At that meeting, we will explain the role of the faculty and how they can help process this message,” he said, referencing the homeroom debrief and theology class discussions.

Sayers said that she and Drennen were approached by Talbot to start this process in January. They then asked the others on the committee to help.

She said that although some teachers or staff may not have a homeroom, they are invited to join a homeroom and the discussions after Evert speaks.

“I plan on joining a homeroom,” she said. “And we also invited people from the Counseling Department to do the same, like what we did for Chris Herren.”

Chris Herren delivered a powerful message to the Malvern community about drugs and alcohol in October.

Sayers said there is still work to be done prior to the March 4 presentation. “We’re not all there yet,” she said. “But I think we’re getting there.”

For any student who may feel uneasy about some of Evert’s views, Sayers said that it’s important to hear what he has to say.

“I’d want to talk with that student to find out what they are uneasy about hearing,” she said. “I would also recommend they go and hear what he has to say, and come back and process some more.”

The Chastity Project’s website states that the organization promotes chastity through low-cost resource distribution, media appearances, seminars, and social media. The presentation Evert will be offering at Malvern is entitled ‘Love and Lust,’ according to Haynie. The website indicates that this presentation offers “encouragement for teens to maintain their purity or begin again if they’ve made mistakes in the past.”

Haynie is excited about Evert’s upcoming visit. “He brings a message of true, authentic love, and his message is the message of the Church – love, mercy, joy, and a life of discipleship and following Christ – a life that takes heroic virtue, and in the end, leads us to fulfillment and union with Christ,” he wrote in an email. “He is very well regarded, and we’re blessed to have him here at MP.”

In December, Talbot stated in his email to students that he hopes the conversations around Evert’s visit will help students to “grapple with some really big and important questions.”

“I think one way or the other, whether students agree with his perspectives on chastity and celibacy, whether they disagree, I hope that they take away an experience of a serious conversation, one that is intellectually coherent, and one that is also aligned with our Catholic and Augustinian identity,” he said.

Drennen hopes students will take one perspective away from Evert’s talk that aligns with Catholic teaching. “It’s ok to be chaste,” he said. “It’s ok to not be sexually active.”

About John McClatchy

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Jack McClatchy started writing for the paper his freshman year, and has previously served as the News Editor during the 2015-2016 school year before becoming the first PR Director for the 2016-2017 school year. He is the President of the World Affairs Club, and is involved in the Academic Competition, Diversity Awareness, Speech and Debate, and Mock Trial clubs. He lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania along with his brother Luke (A pretty cool dude).

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