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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Christine de Marcellus Vollmer

Dr. Knight: You are president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family. What does that entail for you?

Christine: The Latin American Alliance for the Family. the broad international outreach of PROVIVE, is a Venezuelan association founded in 1981 for the defense of human life and dignity. Our work became international because of the increasing demand for character and values education, and the success of our program, Alive to the World, and it continues to grow! Our team, although lean, has become international and recognized in Europe and in Africa, too.

Dr. Knight: Our Church continues to work on the domestic family. Is that a mission for your organization?

Christine: Yes! Absolutely so! Family is the nucleus of all society, and family breakdown is rampant and dangerous. It is causing a falling-away from the Church, and untold unhappiness as well. A planning session by the method of Stanford Research Institute we did in 1985 indicated that the most important prolife field for us is to correct the terrible anti-family direction in which so-called Sex Education has been going.

We therefore put 15 years of research and development into this area and produced a K-12 curriculum, which has been in schools since 2000. This program is an anthropologically-based virtues and character education course, to be used 1 period per week all through the year. It is presented as the exciting story of a varied group of kids as they grow, year by year, encountering the universal existential situations and their various options. The pedagogical method is the Pedagogy of the Integration of the Human Person (PIHP).

Dr. Knight: What aspects of your past work led you to undertake this work?

Christine: Our experiences in the prolife work led us to see the problems behind promiscuity, teenage pregnancy, the demise of marriage and commitment, and the general drift into confused lives. At the same time, contact with many, many children, even from very deprived, chaotic situations, showed us how easy it is to help them to go towards integrity, morality, and responsibility, IF these are presented in a manner they can identify with. Our program, Alive to the World does this for them and produces great joy and enthusiasm as they see their way to being great people.

Dr. Knight: Does your past work for the Church support this aspect of your vocation?

Christine: Totally! My husband and I had the privilege of working with the PCF under Cardinal Lopez Trujillo from 1990 until his death. We worked intensely on The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality with him as well as other important subjects of Family, especially while living in Rome during the 5 years my husband was Ambassador to the Holy See. I was also named by St. John Paul II as one of the original members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, where many of these subjects were discussed.

Dr. Knight: During this time of the virus, has your use of technology assisted you in getting in touch with people?

Christine: Yes. It has been a blessing, as our courses for Teachers and other work have been possible without pause. Fortunately, too, our entire curriculum, the 13 beautiful Student Texts and the 13 Teacher Guides are available in an interactive, on-line version, both in English and in Spanish. Just in time to be useful!

Dr. Knight: The social media that we can use has been so helpful in letting people feel a sense of belonging why is this so important for children?

Christine: Children need a sense of belonging, almost as much as they need food. However, it is important that they know WHERE they belong, with which anthropological and faith group. The concentric circles described by St. Paul VI are vital for them. The danger of social media is that they can begin to feel fragmented as they try to belong to many groups which are not the vital ones of family and faith. At adolescence of course they must be able to explore outside their family, and the story of Alive to the World helps them to do that while retaining their own identity and convictions, well earned by logical, cause and effect thinking, based upon the Golden Rule of “Do unto others…”.

Dr. Knight: Has the eLearning that is taking place in all our homes have an impact on your work?

Christine: Yes, it certainly enables it, and fortunately we are prepared, with the wonderful online version of our 13 levels, (5 years old to 18), so beautifully done by BlinkLearning. Also, since our students are with their parents, they can (and we encourage them to) share the lessons and learning experience. In case the parent would like to act as teacher, he or she can easily access the Teacher Guide and understand the methodology. We are providing these materials for all our students in ‘Alive to the World' Schools.

Dr. Knight: When we come back from the virus, we have an opportunity to be a transformed Church reaching out to the disenfranchised and economically poor will energize us as a Church. How will this assist the work you are doing?

Christine: The sudden change in everyone’s lives and the cessation of so much normal activity, has, I believe, helped many people to think more deeply about life. We are hoping that this program, Alive to the World, will reach not only middle class, well-catechized Christian youth, as a guide to the complicated situations of today, but as well reach those who have little guidance from home, and are confused by our materialistic, over-sexualized world. So far, our experience is that children and adolescents love these books which are exciting, with clear logic, and yet are non-invasive, non-preachy. They allow the student to read the story, understand the situations, consider the options of the characters and interiorize how to be their own best selves.

Our PIHP pedagogy encourages students, week by week, to understand (or know) a facet of reality, accept or interiorize this reality or virtue to make it their own, and invites them to integrate these into day to day actions. This is the Head, Heart, Hand approach that Thomas Lickona has always taught. The Objectives of each lesson sequentially provide guidance for their personal, family or community reality in this way. This C-Virus pandemic is a lesson for us all. We must acknowledge what’s happening, accept we can do something to prevent its expansion, and act accordingly. Not only following all the guidelines, but ourselves coming up with unique solutions to help protect the elderly, the needy, or the homeless.

Dr. Knight: What are some of the hopes you have for the future Church?

Christine: My total faith in the perfection of God’s creative action leads me to think that when society gets into the kind of mess we see around us, not only in the forgotten poor, but in family and moral breakdown generally, world-wide, His grace allows a new build-up of seeking His Truth.

Dr. Knight: What part of your work brings out the aspect of wonder and joy for you?

Christine: That is a question I love! My work fills me with the thrill every day of wonder and joy, because… children keep being born, and every single one of them wants to understand what is around them, how the world works; to know how to be ‘somebody’. Every single human person admires and is attracted by kindness, loyalty, generosity, honesty, perseverance, solidarity, courage, etc. Even those who have strayed far from practicing these. Alive to the World, starting with small children, for instance learning about team sports and their application to daily life, or exploring the truth about different kinds of friendship, then attraction, love and commitment, decision-taking, and so on, allows them to grasp how to live these. And the transformation in the school atmosphere, their home lives and their expressions of pure happiness are indescribably fulfilling. They absolutely love these books!

I invite the reader to visit to see how this is done!

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