Best friends Jakaranda and Jannette from Mary Immaculate Church in Pacoima made the trip to St. Catherine of Siena in Reseda with a sense of purpose.
They had heard about the parish’s second annual Purísima Celebration taking place Dec. 7 --- the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception --- and they mutually decided to show up and sign up for a chastity ring, offered free to any youth or young adult expressing a personal commitment to live a pure and chaste life.
“My friend told me about the meeting here today and it just inspired me to want to come and kind of start over in the right way,” said Jakaranda, who had just been sized for a silver ring which she would receive later during the afternoon event’s closing Mass. “I feel like [sex] should be between two people who love each other. It can wait honestly.”
“I came today,” noted Jannette, “because I think it’s important to be aware of God’s love and His presence and to know that we don’t need any other kind of love as long as we have Him and to respect ourselves and our body as a temple of Christ.”
She called the ring an important reminder. “Sometimes things do get hard and temptation is there,” she noted. “But maybe having this ring as a constant reminder of our promise to God and that we’re going to keep our body holy for Him --- I think that’s really important and that’s why I’m here.”
Last year, 400 young people from five San Fernando Valley parishes felt the same way and received chastity rings at St. Catherine’s first Purísima Celebration, following the lead of a young St. Catherine of Siena parishioner who had been inspired to wear a chastity ring after attending parish adoration services the previous year with her father and strongly feeling the presence of God. The ring was subsequently blessed at a Sunday Mass by Father Paul Griesgraber, St. Catherine’s pastor.
As Emmanuel Garcia, St. Catherine’s youth coordinator and purity celebration co-organizer, told The Tidings, the woman (now in her early 20s) initially lost all of her close friends when she told them the ring represented her promise to God to not be sexually active with a man until marriage. However, she acquired a new set of friends who were asking for purity rings, and the following year ten young people made the same chastity promise.
“All of a sudden, we got inspired” to have an annual purity celebration, said Garcia, calling the ritual an effort to counter the San Fernando Valley’s unfortunate reputation in some circles as a “pornography capital.”
Lisa Walker, a parishioner at St. Edward Church in Corona who has donated more than 1,500 silver rings in the past two years for purity celebration events in Southern California and Mexico (including at St. Catherine’s past two events), first heard about the ministry while attending a retreat co-led by Father Griesgraber.
He kept getting text messages during the retreat about the need for more and more chastity rings for the parish’s Purísima Celebration, and Walker was inspired to donate the rings. Helping to register participants at this year’s event, Walker shared with The Tidings that she wears one of the rings distributed last year at St. Catherine and prays for the ring recipients.
“I’ve had kids who’ve come up to me and told me that they took the ring, and from that day it’s really changed them and inspired them,” said Walker. “I’ve heard stories of kids who were taking drugs every day, and they say that the ring has done something where, by wearing it, it’s a reminder to walk with the Lord and just to respect themselves and not have to feel the peer pressure.”
“I think this event is so important because it reminds us of what we are: we’re Catholic and the Purísima Celebration reminds the youth that we’re promised [to God] until marriage, which seems to be forgotten,” said co-organizer Dulce Rodriguez, 28, who was looking forward to getting a ring this year since they ran short last year due to the demand.
“By doing this rally and providing the youth inspiration and a ring, it gives them that opportunity to make that promise,” said Rodriquez.
Clark Tani, 21, who got his purity ring at age 19 a year after joining St. Catherine’s youth group, admitted that he received “a lot of criticism from the outside world” for embracing a chaste lifestyle. He has spent a lot of time explaining that the plain silver band on his finger represents his promise to God now “that even though I have messed up, I am attempting to live a pure life by making this purity promise.
“It’s been great,” grinned the youth group core team leader. “This purity ring has been helping me to make a real promise to myself. It’s something that’s so beautiful, and I encourage anyone to get one, but it is a challenge.”
He noted that some girls he has been talking to recently see it as a plus. “One girl actually told me she had more respect for me because of getting this purity ring,” said Tani. “You don’t see a lot of men doing that nowadays. It’s something that’s very powerful and a really, really big commitment.”
Ramsel Martinez, 22, who came to the Purísimsa Celebration with fellow Mary Immaculate parishioner and friend, Juanita Lozano, 18, agrees that his decision to get a chastity ring will be hard in a society where he described a lot of people’s attitude as “Do whatever you want first and then everything else can wait until after.”
“I like living up to the challenge,” declared Martinez. “I feel I’m strong enough.”
Lozano commented, “I came today to get the purity ring because I feel like it’s the best thing to make this promise to God and to show how much I’m willing to wait for something so special.”
Daisy Santillan, 26, a parishioner from St. Francis Xavier Church in Pico Rivera, said the announcement about the purity celebration caught her attention and was worth the 35-mile trip to the Reseda parish. “I came because I’ve learned about chastity and purity,” she stated, “and I want to live that lifestyle and just be chaste and pure for God.”