By Emily Prendergast
Students gathered for CUA On Tap with their friends and classmates over chicken parmesan and penne alla vodka catered by Mamma Lucia’s. The event, on October 11 and was organized by campus ministry. The event was free for all students and included a cash bar for those over 21 years old. The Pryzbyla Center Great Room quickly filled with students, enthusiastic about hearing Sarah and Andrew Swafford speak.
Sarah Swafford, the author of Emotional Virtue: A Guide to Drama-Free Relationships, devotes her life to transforming the hearts of her listeners by sharing her stories and life lessons with young adults at retreats, assemblies, rallies, and conferences around the world. Her husband, Andrew Swafford is an Associate Professor of Theology at Benedictine College. He has devoted his adult life to furthering his knowledge in theology and is now an author of multiple books. The dynamic duo manage to have successful careers while balancing family life with their four children (and their fifth on the way).
Before the Swaffords took the stage, members of the student organization, PEERS, handed out quizzes for students to determine their “love language.” This month is Relationship Violence Awareness Month which PEERS has been advocating for around campus. Along with the fun quiz, the tables were scattered with “Bible Tips for Friendship,” Top 10 Catholic U Pick-Up Lines, an info sheet on how to discern your vocation, as well as information on Sarah Swafford’s book.
“PEERS took part in CUA on Tap this month because the talk involved healthy relationships, which is a facet of the PEERS education initiative. We like to promote a healthy campus culture and create open conversations about issues affecting college students, like healthy relationships, so it was great to get to assist with this event. We facilitated our Love Languages workshop, which is a really fun way to get to know a bit more about yourself, plus start a dialogue about healthy relationships. I think the idea of better knowing yourself in a healthy relationship tied in really well with the speakers and overall it was a great event,” said Aly Senko, a junior member of PEERS.
The Swaffords took the stage and began to share their life journeys with the audience. The couple’s joyful and humorous presence immediately drew the crowd in. They shared pictures of their life and family that melted everyone’s heart and then showed their reality– pictures and videos that depicted what happens behind-the-scenes of their “perfect” life.
“Every story has a picture and social media doesn’t show it all,” said Sarah Swafford while she was showing off her dysfunctional life.
Sarah Swafford brings to light the struggle that young people face while trying to live a virtuous life. She had the ability to connect with every person who attended the event, regardless of their age or stage in their life, everyone seemed engaged as she continued to share her heart with the crowd. Sarah and Andrew Swafford applied lessons that they learned in their married life to friendships, relationships, and to our family life. They explained that one of the most important part of any relationship is communication and understanding the other person’s ways of dealing with arguments and how to talk through problems. This seemed to resonate with the group because, no matter where a person was in their life, if they were dating someone or single, they would be able to relate the lessons to their lives.
“Sarah and Andy Swafford exceeded my expectations. I was really impressed by their ability to integrate solid content, emotional stories, and practical advice into one cohesive talk. Both before and after the event, the Swaffords were more than willing to engage in conversation with the students at Catholic; I got the sense that they actually wanted to know something about us and hear what we had to say,” Jackson Martinez, a campus minister, commented on the talk.
One of the main points that Sarah Swafford conveyed during her talk was the epidemic of use that is happening in our generation and how we need to stop the continuation of the culture of using others and letting ourselves be used. Swafford explained that everyone knows how being used feels or have at least seen a close friend or loved one be used. She made the entire audience repeat her well-known mantra:
“I will not use you. I will not let you use me.” She described that loving someone is an act of the will and that it is shown by wanting what is best for the other person, not for personal benefit but to help your partner.
The Swaffords displayed a lengthy list of adjectives that describe a perfect, virtuous woman that a man would want to marry and another list that described a perfect man that is ideal for women. The couple showed this list, not to overwhelm or put down the crowd, but to show that the most important step is “striving.” They repeatedly had the audience repeat the word “striving,” because, according to them, a person who is striving is a person who will become virtuous and properly prepare them for healthy relationships, no matter what that relationship may be.
The Swaffords concluded their talk by explaining the importance in “defining the relationship,” otherwise known as the “DTR” talk. They shared that having the conviction to step forward and to be honest about feelings that an individual may be having is important to make sure that lines do not get blurred and feelings do not get hurt. The couple parted with words of encouragement for the students of Catholic University and closed the talk in prayer.
“I thought the guest speakers had a lot of good insight to share and I’m really glad I attended. I really enjoyed the advice they gave to listen to your friends and those around you who care for your well-being when it comes to evaluating which relationships are healthy and which aren’t,” said Elise LaFleur, a student who gladly attended the event.