RISE: restoring integrity and sexual ethics to Australia's secular culture

RISE: restoring integrity and sexual ethics to Australia's secular culture

Br Barry Coldrey

RISE (Restoring Integrity and Sexual Ethics) was formed in December 2008 when 15 young adult leaders from across Australia were invited to Canberra by various family organisations, such as the Australian Family Association and the Fatherhood Foundation, to discuss sexual issues among teenagers. RISE highlights a groundswell among many young people turned off by casual sex and meaningless relationships.

The meeting elected a committee to plan the first- ever conference of the new movement, including Matt Restall, Bridget Spinks, Jessica Langrell, Anthony Goodwin, and Daniel Treacy.

Over the past three years, Sydney has had to cope with "the rise- and-rise of Pat Langrell", as one of his friends laughingly put it. Pat was a dynamic Catholic leader studying Theology and Philosophy at Notre Dame University (Sydney) and President of its Thomas More Society.

Patrick headed the team who initiated the popular monthly Theology-on-Tap and the impressive iWitness Conference in the wake of World Youth Day at the Collaroy Centre in November last year.

However, the Archdiocese of New York heard of Pat's achievements and a few months ago their representatives approached Pat to head Young Adult Ministry in the Big Apple. He accepted.

Following this move, which created a major gap in the New South Wales church ministry, Pat's sister, Jessica, has stepped into the breach and provides leadership of a number of young adult activities in Sydney, notably Theology-on-Tap.

Jessica was educated at Tangara School for Girls and is a nineteen- year-old philosophy and theology student at Notre Dame University where her older brother was so prominent.

In recent episodes of the groundbreaking ABC series, The Science of Teens, which explores the sexual attitudes of Australian teenagers, Jessica was one of two young Catholic women demanding a return of love, truth, respect and traditional values in relationships.

The series is hosted by award- winning journalist, Steve Cannane, and its first episode covered risk- taking and teens and the second episode binge drinking.

Jessica is one of the leaders behind the recent, "Say No to Sexual Advertising" in New South Wales. In Victoria, Matt Restall has spearheaded a similar campaign as has Anthony Goodwin in Brisbane.

Meanwhile on the ABC, as part of a five-member teenage panel, Jessica was fearless in witnessing to her belief that sex is a beautiful gift and must not be devalued by casual sex outside a permanent, loving and married relationship.

In a secular society in which "sex without strings" and "relationships without rings" is becoming the norm, what they said was decidedly counter-cultural and triggered heated debate according to Jessica, who added, "When you challenge the lifestyles of people your own age and they react strongly, you must be doing something right. It is because what you're saying has hit home. If you are not making waves, you are not saying the right things."

At about the same time the first RISE Australia Conference was held in Canberra on 12-13 August with 50 young adults from across Australia discussing ways to restore love, truth and sexual integrity in human relationships.

The first day took the form of a series of workshops and group discussions moderated by well-known American speaker and chastity activist, Dave Sloan, founder of movements such as "Thrive" and "Singles serving Orphans".

Dave is a convert to Catholicism and gave the Conference a powerful statement of his early years when he was desperate, homeless, "on drugs and in and out of prison." What saved him, he said, was discovering God and his decision to become a Catholic.

Dave felt that there were too few people and movements teaching young Catholics about the importance of chastity so he made this his mission.

On the second day of the RISE Conference, the 50 delegates joined 470 of Australia's leading family and marriage organisations, politicians and women's groups to celebrate National Marriage Day at a breakfast in the Great Hall of Parliament House. The Australian Family Association sponsored this event in association with other pro-family organ- isations.

This year there was a special highlight with former Governor- General, Major-General Michael Jeffrey, and his wife announced as the inaugural Marriage Day Ambassadors. This underlined the fact that at least some of our national leaders are concerned at moves to reduce the significance of marriage in the Australian community.

Meanwhile, Matt Restall spoke to the Breakfast on the significance of RISE in the community. He outlined the crisis faced by young people with the sex-drenched advertising, the instant availability of pornography and the erosion of traditional values in a secularised society. The delegates found the strong personal testimony very moving.

RISE (Australia) is planning its next Conference and hopes very soon to produce a booklet on sexual ethics and attitudes which will include a comprehensive survey of marriage and relationships in contemporary Australia and young people's attitudes to them.

RISE (www.riseaustralia.org.au) may be contacted via info@riseaustralia.org.au or 0438 386 482. Donations to assist in this good work may be sent to: RISE (Australia) Donations, PO Box Q1042, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, NSW 1230.

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