GREEN BAY — True love, it’s what every person entering into the sacrament of marriage yearns to realize.
At the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the Newman Catholic Student Community (best known as the Newman Club) and Phoenix Students for Life spent the days leading up to Valentine’s Day spreading the message that true love is possible and you can find it by practicing “right dating relationships.”
Abstinence, they told their fellow students, is not only possible, but will indeed lead those who practice it to their true love.
It was for that reason that the four events planned by the student groups, and held during the week and a-half leading up to Valentine’s Day, were called “True Love Week.”
Franciscan Sr. Laura Zelten is campus minister at UW-Green Bay. She explained that the goal of the True Love Week was to spread the message that students do have choices when it comes to dating.
“Our week is to offset ‘Sex Week’ on campus, where the Student Health Office offers teaching on safe sex,” she said. That week is held during the week of Valentine’s Day.
The Newman Club is an independently recognized UW-Green Bay student organization which works in conjunction with the Catholic Campus Ministry of the Diocese of Green Bay to provide Catholic programming. The two groups sponsor Mass on campus each Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Richard Mauthe Center for Faith, Spirituality and Social Justice.
Newman Club hosts their weekly meeting and main event, Newman Night, each Thursday at 8 p.m. during the school year.
The first event of True Love Week was Feb. 3, when students handed out fresh roses to fellow students with messages about chastity and abstinence during the annual all-campus event called “OrgSmorg,” during which the many campus organizations have an opportunity to promote membership to their groups.
“We thought it would be really lovely to hand out roses,” said Leslie Trochlil, a UWGB senior and secretary of the Newman Club.
On Feb. 8, they presented the popular Christian movie “Fireproof,” which tells the story of a firefighter whose job is to rescue others, but who is now faced with his toughest job ever — rescuing his wife’s heart. The 2008 film starring Kirk Cameron has become popular as a conversation-starter in many Christian churches.
As Sr. Laura explained, the film “gives the students an awareness of struggles that happen in relationships and the work it takes to make things work out for both parties in a very healthy and positive way, without separation.”
On Feb. 9, they also sponsored a panel discussion featuring Phil and Maggie Kuczlowski of Wisconsin Rapids, who speak about right relationships. The parents of four, with one on the way, use the writings and examples of the saints as well as the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church to help individuals acquire the skills they need to resist temptation, persevere in prayer and grow in discipleship.
There was also a panel discussion scheduled for Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, on living a chaste life in the midst of a world mixed messages. The panel included individuals from both the university and the religious sector.
True Love Week at UW-Green Bay had been in the planning stages since November.
Sara Schmitz, who teaches nutrition and dietetics at UW-Green Bay, is the advisor for the Phoenix Students for Life organization. “The students have really been on fire in terms of coming up with these ideas. … They were really the creative force on how they want this True Love Week to look,” she said.
She became the advisor to the organization this year.
“It can be a very lonely place to be a Catholic on campus. … They are a small but very courageous group of students,” she said of Phoenix Students for Life. “It’s very heartening to say our side of the story, to say that there is another option out there.”
True Love Week was created to start a conversation on campus and reach out to like-minded students. Students can also return to a chaste life, said organizers.
For Trochlil, 22, all this is so very important “because we were made in the likeness of God.” Respecting one’s body and practicing right relationships can lead to true love, she explained.
“It’s been so hopeful and so inspiring to see how hopeful and courageous our students are in living out their faith publicly. … It strengthens me,” said Schmitz.
True Love Week invited students to know that there are alternatives to “secular world values,” said Sr. Laura.
“I think the big thing is that this is the first time this has been done on campus,” she continued. “No one else has been as courageous as these students to say there is something different than what you are teaching us. … That’s the bottom line — that this group of students isn’t going to go with the mainstream thoughts.”