Peter and Andrew did not hesitate to drop their nets when Jesus called out to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). I always thought if I was in their shoes it would play out much differently. I would be too comfortable casting my net and would be too afraid to follow. But when I encountered the mission of The Culture Project, I was captivated by the call the Lord was extending to me. Though I was afraid, I did not hesitate and I decided to follow.
The Culture Project gives presentations on human dignity, sexual integrity, and virtuous living to young people in schools, parishes, communities, and at community events. I encountered them during my senior year of college and their missionary spirit, joy, and authentic nature moved me to drop my post-graduation plans and apply to the organization. Through my own experiences, I had witnessed the lies our culture tells young people about love and self-worth. By becoming a missionary with the organization, I knew I would be able to speak truth to these lies and help combat a toxic culture.
During my two years of service, I encountered young ladies fed up with what the world had to say about their worth and young men wanted to become men of virtue. But there were also many young people broken down by what the world had offered them. They were real, raw, and honest about what they had been facing, but they were not afraid to venture on a new, more fulfilling path. It is in these encounters that I knew my decision to leave behind my net behind and follow Christ was more than worth it.
Regarding the mission of The Culture Project, I sat down with our Founder and Executive Director Cristina Barba to share more about how the mission started and what it is trying to achieve:
What was your basis/reasoning for founding The Culture Project?
My friends and I had lived the ways of the culture and found it wanting. We were sick of what the world had to offer us. We found there was more for ourselves and our peers. We felt that we needed to do more. The hook-up culture had sold us short. The world had sold young people short. We thought that the truth needed to get out, and there was a power in a community of men and women who were practicing what they preached. We based the mission program on four pillars: formation, community, prayer and work.
What are some adversities or challenges that you are fighting against today?
Two of the biggest challenges our mission faces are: finding good men and technology. Finding the right young men who are ready and willing to be a part of this mission can be tough. Mission work often appeals to women, and a lot of guys interested in this type of work might be interested in pursuing religious life or priesthood. Some are ready to get married and start a family. We see a crisis in men who want to step up or pause their pursuits in order to serve this mission. The second is technology. Many of our culture's issues are perpetuated by technology. It pulls us further away from reality and the real world. We live in our culture of isolation, and our overuse of technology is a part of that. The youth that we are encountering are facing this every single day; especially in terms of the sexual, secular and negative self-worth messages that bombard them.
What is your favorite verse or quote that inspires the mission of The Culture Project?
Recently, I watched a documentary on Pope Saint John Paul II's visit to Poland. He is a great hero of mine and a patron of the work of The Culture Project. He said, "You are not who they say you are. Let me remind you of who you are." Youth today struggle with our identity in terms of who the culture tells us we are, especially when it comes to our sexuality. What we do at The Culture Project is to encounter the youth, put a pause on that thinking and say, “You are not who the world says you are.” We have the opportunity to remind them that they are made in the image and likeness of God. This quote sums up what we are trying to achieve.
The Culture Project gives presentations on human dignity, sexual integrity, and virtuous living to young people in schools, parishes, and other settings. Their mission is to encounter youth and young adults, remind them of their dignity, and encourage them to be men and women of character. A team of five Culture Project missionaries will be serving the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio beginning in October. To learn more or request a visit from the Cleveland team to your location, go to www.thecultureproject.org.
Alyssa Sanchez is a former missionary with The Culture Project and now works in the headquarters office as the Office and Mission Administrator.
This article was previously published in Radiant Magazine.