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‘Learn to Love,’ seminar nets positive results for children and parents in all cultures

The following story appeared in the December 3 Idaho Catholic Register.

In front Father Ángel Alfredo Castro and Roberto Amieva, manager from Salt and Light Radio Spanish with people who attended the seminar. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)

By Vero Gutierrez

Staff Writer

CALDWELL – Using both science and faith, Idaho Catholics from throughout the state gathered at Our Lady of the Valley in Caldwell to gain a better understanding about the development of the whole person, and the proper roles of men, women, families and children in a culture that seems to have lost its way in understanding fundamental truths.

The day-long seminar, “Learn to Love,” was presented to about 200 Hispanic Catholics by Father Ángel Alfredo Castro of the Missionary Servants of the Word. Father Ángel is also serves as the parish vicar at Holy Redeemer in Odessa, Texas. The event was sponsored by Salt & Light Radio.

Learn to Love is an educational, Latin American science project that began more than 23 years ago with the cooperation of more than 80 scientists. It has been presented in many countries including Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

The project was originally designed as a school subject for pre-school to high school students, but the richness of its content led to it being expanded to include catechism groups, formation of priests, and for families in parish settings.

Father Ángel said the course material helps people understand the entire person: physically, sociologically and emotionally. With the help of the Missionary Servants of the Word now based in Idaho, he hopes that the course content will spread through the state and eventually be translated into English to share with English-speaking communities.

Father Ángel, who has received more than 60 hours of study with the project, in the Missionary Servants of the Word seminary where he is an instructor. “Because it is based on science, the course content is universally applicable. Regardless of the cultural traits of each country, the results are the same.”

The content of the program is gradual, progressing from biological and anatomical truths, the science of sexual differences, and then advancing to ethics and philosophy. Participants are taught how to relate within society, denying the modern philosophy of absolute freedom and the importance of respecting norms and rules.

In countries like Costa Rica and Guatemala where “Learn to Love” began 23 years ago at the preschool level, the result has been more young people committed to helping spread the project’s message, some of them consecrated to religious life or dedicated to social work.

The issue of sexual abuse in minors is addressed. Professional educators have collaborated with the project, giving safety tools to children so that they can be equipped to report sexual abuse.

In Mexico, the results of the course have been gratifying, Father Ángel said. In schools where the course is taught officials have reported a decline in teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol use.

“The wonder of the project is that it is designed for children 3 years and older,” Father Ángel said. “The course is adapted for adolescents, parents and mothers, but paying special attention to men.”

Father Ángel said it is vitally important to rescue the male from the ideologies of the 1960s and 70s that left the male very damaged due to a disconnection from their masculinity, causing them to grow up with fears and acting irresponsibly, which is contrary to authentic masculine nature.

The result has been that husbands and fathers who for generation were the supported their families and educated and set boundaries for their children, have instead become “more fragile and shy” and more promiscuous. In Latin American countries, traditional roles of masculinity have been attacked by feminists who express resentment toward men.

“Unfortunately, fewer and fewer men offer security,” to their families, Father Ángel said. “They are more and more vulnerable. Biolologically they may be 30 or 40 years old, but they often have the perceptions of a 6- or 8-year-old child.”

The Learn to Love project works to rescue the values of authentic masculinity and femininity, Father Ángel said.

The seminar is divided into four subject areas. In the first section, participants learn that each one is unique and unrepeatable creation of God and has dignity that cannot be taken from them. In later sessions, participants are taught basic truths that have to do with the family life, such as the principles of reconciliation toward parents.

Participants are taught that fathers and mothers are essential to the family structure. “It seems an absurd question, but there are those who deny the importance of the presence of the father in the family,” Father Ángel said. He said that even adults can have unresolved situations with their parents, but emphasizes also the importance of not unfairly judging parents and the role forgiveness can play in healing.

Youth are provided the tools necessary to assist them in making a life plan, developing lasting relationships, and persevering in the projects they choose. “This generation tries but often does not succeed,” Father Ángel said. “The drama of those born in the last four decades is that they were blessed intellectually but are lacking in will.”

For this reason, the project focuses on working on the importance of developing virtues. “There is no age limit to learning virtue,” Father Ángel said. “Virtue is something that can be learned and developed at any stage of our life.”

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