Genesis, the Fall and you

Theology of the body course offered for Utica teens

by Luke Eggleston
Sun staff writer

It has taken several decades for Pope John Paul II’s teachings on the theology of the body to make their way from Rome to Central New York.

Now, lay ministers hope to bring the lectures of the late pontiff’s early papacy to the youth at Holy Trinity Church in Utica.

The parish will host the series on Sundays during Lent. After its March 1 start, the sessions will continue on March 8, March 15, March 22, March 29, April 5 and April 19. Each session begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.

The facilitators are certified catechists Carol Armitage, Valerie Elacqua and Janice Lyszczarz.

The program will translate the message of Pope John Paul II’s lectures and encyclicals regarding the “theology of the body” and apply that message to teenagers’ relationships and their sexuality.

Elacqua, a teacher at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School who is involved in several aspects of youth ministry at the parish, explained that she is excited about the event because her 15-year-old daughter will have an opportunity to participate.

“I don’t want her to settle on a counterfeit. I want her to have the real thing,” Elacqua said. “They’re [the youth] just so inundated by our oversexed culture. We need to deliver a countermessage — the true message.”

After participating in a course on theology of the body, Elacqua knew it had significant potential for married adults. When Elacqua learned that a program for teenagers had been developed, she was elated.

“I took a course on the theology of the body and that’s when I said, ‘Wow.’ When? I knew it had come out for teens, I knew it was just going to be so powerful.” Elacqua said.

As a catechetical minister involved in marriage preparation, Armitage has studied the theology of the body extensively.

In his book Theology of the Body for Beginners, Christopher West asserts that the central theme of the pope’s message is “the body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

Armitage has studied the literature dealing with the theology of the body thoroughly.

“Pope John Paul II was meditating on what the meaning of  the body is and what is the purpose of life,” Armitage said. “Theology of the body seeks to reconcile these two questions with God’s original plan for human beings.”

The series at Holy Trinity will examine Pope John Paul II’s thought as it applies to young people and their relationships in particular.

“Teens just don’t understand their purpose,” Armitage said. “They have so many questions. For instance, what is the point of dating?”

Armitage noted that the series for young people at Holy Trinity will follow the pope’s teachings closely.

Armitage explained that the course begins with the Book of Genesis and Adam and Eve in particular, and the Fall. The Fall, according to the theology of the body, led not only to the problems experienced in Adam and Eve’s relationship, but all relationships thereafter.

After examining the origin of the problem, Armitage explained, the purpose is to explore how a relationship can strive to return to its state before the Fall.

“We want to show them how they can get back to that,” Armitage said.

For young people who may have made poor choices in high school, for example, the course offers a map for returning to good standing with God. The course also demonstrates to young people how poor choices in college might affect them.

She said that Lent is a perfect occasion for such a series.

“That’s why we want to do this during Lent,” she said. “It can be an opportunity for a conversion experience.”

In addition, Armitage noted that she hopes the course will “better help young people recognize how to choose a spouse and have a holy and healthy marriage. Hopefully, it will also prepare them for marriage,” she said.

She added that the series would also address those young people who are interested in pursuing a vocation.

“Not everyone is called to marriage,” she said.

Armitage stressed that she hopes parents will take an interest in the program. She is available to answer any questions they might have and there will be an opportunity for parents to watch a video directed toward their questions regarding the program.

“I love when parents get involved and want to learn more about what their kids are learning,” she said.

As of last week, there were six teenagers signed up for the course, all of them girls. The first session, held this past Sunday, March 1, was very general, according to Armitage. She said that the program is still open to more teenagers, but it will become “deeper and deeper” as it progresses.

The course will utilize a workbook and a series of DVDs developed by authors and speakers Jason and Crystalina Evert and Brian Butler.

Each session of the 12-week course will cover two chapters of the workbook. The first phase covers Genesis, the second covers the Fall and the third deals with redemption. In the fourth session, the facilitators and young people will discuss problems specific to teenagers and how the theology of the body relates directly to them.

She noted that Holy Trinity’s central location in Utica makes it an ideal place for anyone in the community to participate.

More information on theology of the body for teens can be found at Information on theology of the body in general can be found at Christopher West’s Web site,

For more information on the course at Holy Trinity, call (315) 768-1253 or (315) 733-2891.

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