Chastity is a tough call of Quebec’s distinct society, say organizers of a national youth advocacy group that promises chastity as an alternative to premarital sex.

Rebecca Morcos, 25, founder of Chastity Challenge, says her message of chastity as al

Lifestyle is harder to promote to French-speaking youth in Quebec’

“It’s harder to get into schools. They hear the word ‘chastity’ and they immediately make the link to the {Catholic} Church” said Morcos, a convert to Roman Catholicism’

Every year, Morcos’s Chastity based non-denominational group organizes a national tour in which volunteers aged 18 to 25 visit schools across the country, making presentations about chastity to high school students aged 13 to 17. The hour–long presentations include: personal testimony, skits and class participation. The unmarried volunteers, who are of different faiths, must practice chastity themselves.

But Morcos says her group faces a special challenge in Quebec, where students express cynicism about marriage.

“They do not believe in the institution of marriage,” she said.

John Nieuwenhuis, 23, who was a leader of the French team for the year’s team agrees with Morcos.

In May, his bilingual team visited French-language schools in Montreal, the Beauce region in southern Quebec and the Trois Riviers area.

“It was such a new passage for a lot of them, they didn’t know what to think,’ he said. “They thought the whole idea of saving sex until marriage is a really great idea{but} the prevailing sentiment of Quebec is that marriage is worthless, that marriage just amounts to a piece of paper which really means nothing.”

But Nieuwenhuis advocated that Quebec youth were more open during question and answer periods hear their English counterparts and hear the French students were relieved to hear about something different.

“It is quite a radical difference,” he added, “In Quebec; the common denominator was a lack of hope in the youth.”

Nieuwenhuis attributes the lack of hope as the destruction of family values and anything that the Catholic Church teaches.

“Their faith just died out and as a result anything associated with the Church, including the institution of marriage is to be rebelled against,” he said.

Morcos says that the solution for speakers. Doing chastity presentations in Quebec is to be prepared to get down to the root of it get down to what Neuwenhuis said,” we opposed to focusing on the sexual act, placing more emphasis on what love really is.”

Neuwenhuis works as an administrative assistant for Companions of the Cross, a community of priests in Ottawa. He became involved with the Chastity Challenge group after seeing Morcos one day on television.

“I thought it was a really fantastic idea and something very much needed for youth of today,” he said.

Morcos says she started her organization to the spring of 1995 because she was concerned for young people,” hardly ever hear about the option of waiting to have sex.”

Her parents were extremely supportive of the decision to start the group after she graduated from the University of Alberta with a political science major. Working for Chastity Challenge has turned into a full-time occupation for her. Almost 90% of the group’s funding comes from the $550 honorariums received from speaking engagements.

On the road

Last year the Chastity Challenge team took the message to Ireland. It has also made presentations in California.

Although the organization has no official connection to the pro-life movement, Morcos says that it occurred to her that the real root of the problem of abortion among teenagers was the lack of chastity.

“A couple of problems with the control education is that it gives teens a false sense of security [and] focuses on the physical aspect of sexuality,” she said.

Kathleen Ross, 22, a board member of Ontario Students for Life, says Morcos was “heavily involved in pro-life” before starting Chastity Challenge.

Morcos made a presentation on chastity at Ross’s high school in 1993.

“I was really impressed,” R0ss said. ”I always am impressed that people would get up and talk about practicing chastity in front of people they don’t know.’”

Ross says she sees a connection between the chastity message and the pro-life message.

“Obviously if people aren’t becoming pregnant is the first place, then they will never be faced with the decision of whether to have an abortion,” she said’