No one gives the “hard chat” on gender and sexuality like Jason Evert.
The well-known Theology of the Body evangelist has found a way of communicating that “hard chat” with such Catholic clarity, it’s reached nearly two million people across six continents.
On a 45 degree day at a packed auditorium at Patrician Brothers, Fairfield, 200 parents and their teenagers accepted an invitation from the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Life Marriage and Family team to hear Evert deliver the “truth bombs” for which he’s become so renowned.
On 9 December, the family “mini-retreat” combined Evert’s presentation on Gender and the Theology of Your Body, with a time of prayer, adoration, and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Families also received a resource pack to take home to help them discover how their body as a man or woman reveals their identity and calling.
51-year-old Bernie Armistead attended the event with his 13-year-old son, Thomas.
“A little while back, I came across Evert’s theology of the body, and I was quite intrigued by that,” Bernie said.
“Then we heard this was a family event. It was a great opportunity for me and my son to attend, together.”
“I wanted my son to get an introduction from someone who has so much experience and global sharing of this topic.”
The event was designed so that both parents and their teenagers could receive Evert’s guidance together.
“This is no longer both parent and teen talking at each other. Someone else is talking to both of you,” said Hashya Weerakkody, an officer from the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Life, Marriage and Family team.
“Jason’s words and presentation spoke to the truth that was already there. Deep down we do know the truth but having someone reveal those truths in a new way, resonates more deeply.”
It certainly resonated for Bernie and Thomas, both members of St Mark’s parish in Drummoyne.
“Kids listen when it’s an independent voice. I wanted Thomas to understand what these issues on sexuality and gender are about, at an age where he can go away and think about these things and bring it into his own life,” said Bernie.
“But back in my day, conversations like this weren’t had with your parents. We just thought everything was taboo.”
Evert called chastity “the fruit of a virtuous life” and drawing on the shared stories of one million teenagers gathered from around the world, testified that “when you see God’s plan for love, lust looks boring.”
Bernie, who also has two daughters—Isabel, 11 and Lucy, 9—said it was the clear teaching he was after as a parent.
“The discussion about chastity was great—learning about thinking through a women’s eyes and what that means in terms of their body and not succumbing to peer pressure,” he said.
“Having young daughters, this was an eye opener too. It’s also about understanding they have a choice and why these choices matter.
“His point about the importance of having male and female gender and how people are confusing that story and watering down the importance of the male and female body, which impacts families—that stuck out.
“He gave great advice on not getting distracted by all the stories that pull us away from the reality of what God created.
“And not getting distracted by having 51 different gender options to choose from is important.”
Bernie noticed an immediate change in his teenage son, Thomas.
“He’s gone from talking about having girlfriends to seeing the importance of chastity and the importance of marriage,” said Bernie.
For families, like the Armistead’s, who feel under constant “spiritual attack” for their beliefs, Evert’s talks have been a revelation.
“It’s so great for young people to have this. Hopefully Thomas and all the teenagers really got something from it and can take it to their families, schools and parishes,” said Bernie.