By S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has declared July 20-26, “National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.”
This year’s theme is, “Natural Family Planning: It’s Worth It. Join the Revolution!” The annual event encourages parishes and diocesan groups to, “focus attention and Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods and Church teachings which support their use in marriage.”
Coinciding with July 25’s 46th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humane Vitae, the week also encompasses the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne (the Blessed Mother’s parents) on July 26.
Michele Chambers of the Diocese of Lincoln’s FertilityCare Center said that parishes around the diocese are free to observe National NFP Awareness Week as they choose. The USCCB has made available a poster and a number of articles for this purpose.
As for her office, Mrs. Chambers said that they are going to be doing some public relations to announce their three new bilingual NFP teachers. Two are operating out of Christo Rey, Lincoln’s Spanish-language parish, and one is in Hastings.
That brings the total number of NFP teachers in the diocese up to 16, spread out from Lincoln and Beatrice to North Platte.
“Our goal is to have one teacher within an hour and a half of any couple in the diocese,” Mrs. Chambers said.
The teachers’ primarily work with engaged and married couples is to teach them how to use modern, scientifically-proven forms of NFP, such as the Creighton Model, to effectively plan pregnancies within God’s design for the human body.
The Creighton Model, for example, uses standardized observation and charting of a woman’s natural, biological signs of ovulation. NFP teachers instruct each couple how to observe and record the signs on a chart, and then how to interpret those signs to learn whether the woman is in the fertile phase of her cycle, or one of the two infertile phases.
Catholic married couples can prayerfully use NFP to either avoid or achieve pregnancy throughout the wife’s fertile years. When a couple is suffering infertility, NFP charts can help their medical team make a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.
Plus, NFP observation allows a woman to monitor her personal health.
“It’s the language of a woman’s body,” explained Mrs. Chambers. “If you understand and can read the signs that your body is giving you, you can know if you are in good reproductive health or if there is an issue that you need to take to a physician.”
She noted that many of the engaged women she works with are dealing with four or five of the top-10 life stressors: getting married, moving, looking for a job, graduating and so on.
This stress is often reflected in the woman’s charts. An NFP educator can explain how good nutrition, vitamins and other supplements, and making sleep a priority can help these women stay healthy despite the stress.
Sometimes, NFP comes in handy for other types of health problems as well.
“I just recently taught a mom and two daughters who were experiencing a medical condition called endometriosis,” Mrs. Chambers said. “None of them were using it as a method of family planning, but all of them were using it to feel better.”
She helped another woman suffering from severe post-partum depression discover how her charts showed a low progesterone level. After the woman’s doctor prescribed a progesterone supplement, the woman’s depression improved within hours.
“It’s really an amazing thing!” Mrs. Chambers said.
With modern technology now at their disposal, the diocesan NFP instructors are now able to serve couples and individuals long distance. They use the video calling system Skype for instruction, which allows them to speak face to face and look at charts – both crucial for this type of education.
“Because we are a college town, we’ll have engaged couples where one is here and one is in another state,” explained Mrs. Chambers.
She recalled sitting at her computer in Lincoln teaching one fiancé in another state and the other in London. Another woman she helped with a health issue was stationed in Pakistan with the U.S. military.
When National NFP Awareness Week begins July 20, Mrs. Chambers hopes that Catholics will do something special with their families.
“To celebrate NFP is to celebrate life, their marriage and their family,” she reasoned. “NFP is all about couple-ness, trying to strengthen the marriage by keeping them open to life.”
For more information about the NFP training available within the diocese, visit the website, or call (402) 488-2040.