By Tim Harfmann and Allyson Escobar
MIDLAND BEACH — Warm weather in Staten Island’s Midland Beach didn’t stop participants from running in the Race for the Chaste on Aug. 17. It was the second annual 5K run/walk benefiting The Goretti Group, a local faith fellowship community aimed at spreading the message of purity and authentic love.
“Race for Chaste is a way for us to celebrate the beautiful message of chastity, living a life of purity,” said New York chapter coordinator Deborah Sucich, who also serves as a campus minister at St. Saviour H.S. in Park Slope.
“Our motto is to spread the joy. Glorify God in your body is our theme for this year, taken from 1 Corinthians. We use our bodies for the glory of God, to spread the good news. So we have all our runners out today sharing that joy and the message with the world.”
Geared towards young adults, the Goretti Group movement first began in the West Coast, with chapters in San Diego and the Bay Area who meet monthly for prayer, talks and fellowship. The New York chapter began its Race for the Chaste last year, hoping to raise funds for its events.
The 3.1-mile race took place along the beach and Father Vincent Capodanno Boulevard, named for a local Staten Island priest with a cause for sainthood. Participating groups included the LIFE Runners NY, Correcaminos (Hispanic Running Team), St. Saviour High School, Park Slope, and the Montauk Junior High Track Team (I.S. 223).
With the support of runners, donors and community members, the Goretti Group raised a total of $2,500 to continue programming.
Even Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio made a contribution.
Several clergy, including Archdiocese of New York Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Byrne, also took part in the second annual run for an important cause.
The overall message and theme of chastity is “very relevant,” Bishop Byrne, 68, told The Tablet. “[The race] took a lot of work, but [look] at success it is today. We hope that the more people who know about it, it’ll grow, year by year.”
Father Louis Jerome, pastor of St. Charles in Oakwood Heights, Staten Island, participated in the race for the second time.
“I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I feel like I’m setting a good example. I believe it’s a good cause for the chastity and purity in young people, and I’m in support of that.”
Added Sucich, “It’s amazing to have the church leadership here. This is the stuff that should be on the front page of the neziwspapers: that we have so many dedicated religious and clergy who really authentically spread this message through their lives, through their witness, and in great support of the efforts of the young people of the church.”
Runners Denise and Patrick Collins, parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Windsor Terrace, loved the message behind Race for the Chaste, which they said differs the 5K from other runs they’d done before.
As members of their church’s Respect Life ministry, the Collins said they came out from Brooklyn to show support for the Goretti Group, the people behind “real grassroots efforts to change the culture” — efforts they find inspiring.
“We really like the philosophy and the idea that they’re trying to promote about love, family and marriage,” said Denise Collins, “youth respecting themselves and doing the best they can to lead a chaste life.”
Running for chastity
In 2013, Sucich, a native Staten Islander who became a consecrated virgin with the Diocese of Brooklyn in July, wanted to bring the Goretti Group to serve New York’s active Catholic young adult scene.
The non-profit was named after St. Maria Goretti, a young woman who was brutally stabbed by a neighbor after he attempted to rape her at age 11. On July 1902, the day she died of her injuries, Maria forgave her murderer.
Sucich says she was inspired by St. Goretti’s story because of the young saint’s courage and strength to live a life of purity, despite what had happened to her.
It’s a lifestyle Debbie says all young people must strive for.
“We have the strength inside of us, with the grace of God, to live a life of purity, a life of love in our relationships according to God’s plan, and that immense joy and love He wants for us in our lives.”
Frank Morale, a member and youth coordinator at St. Columba in Marine Park, loved that Goretti Group is a core for young adults looking for community and faith formation.
“I think it’s important because we tend to lose sight of the church teachings due to the day-to-day life, culture and society, which has become very secularized.”
Morale said he was excited to see people out there raising money for a unique cause like chastity. “Seeing everybody out there and being a role model, living by good example for on-lookers. It’s a very public place out on the boardwalk. I’m excited to see people of all faiths, become curious about chastity.”
Teen volunteers Lauren Jaworowski and Leanne Holmes, both incoming seniors at St. Saviour H.S., traveled from Brooklyn to Staten Island to support Sucich, their teacher and mentor.
“[Ms. Sucich] invited us to come out and support the cause. And I was like, it’s a great cause, let’s do it,” said Jaworowski. “I think it’s great when a bunch of people can support and understand the cause…and for us being like, 17, it shows that we’re mature enough to understand [the message of chastity].”
Janna and Nicholas Gaudisio are members of the LIFE Runners, the world’s largest pro-life running team, and have been active in Goretti Group after meeting Sucich at a local pregnancy resource center.
Janna says she loves the group’s monthly young adult gatherings, which typically include discussions on chastity and marriage.
“We run for the unborn; our organization promotes life, and we speak and run as a sacrifice for those that don’t have a voice. We’re here to [be] representatives for the dignity of the human person. It’s important they have somebody to stand up for them from conception until natural death, so this is a small thing that we can do,” said Janna. “We love to run, so we’re happy to be out here and do something we love and represent Christ at the same time.”
“It’s a beautiful day, and it’s exciting,” agreed her husband, Nicholas. “Life is good, so we’re just trying to enjoy life, and promote it at the same time.”
The Gaudisio’s niece, Olivia Busiello, a young LIFE Runner, said she loved seeing other kids participating in the race.
“It was nice to see the other kids out and doing the run too. To me, it means that we’re standing up for something that we believe in, and standing up for our religion. We’re running for a purpose and the purpose is life.”