SLU discussion promotes ‘essential message’ of NFP on campus

Sid Hastings

The meeting started with a simple question: Who's read "Humanae Vitae?"

Of the 60 or so people in the audience, only a few raised their hands.

As part of his discernment to the priesthood, Father David Meconi told the group he read Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on married love and parenting, which he jokingly called “the letter to the fallopians.”

Turning serious, Father Meconi reflected: "It just made sense: if the Church is right on this, when artificial birth control is such a big issue in this culture, then maybe the Church is right on other issues, too."

The conversation was part of "Natural Family Planning Night," a panel discussion last week on the campus of St. Louis University. Drs. Teresa Hilgers and Cara Buskmiller, resident physicians specializing in natural fertility care; and married couple Troy Woytek and Emma Harty shared their personal experiences with natural family planning.

SLU began hosting the event two years ago as a means to promote natural fertility care — also called natural family planning — on campus. The April 4 discussion was sponsored by the Edmund Campion Centre for Catholic Studies at SLU and the Catholic Student Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

"The Church's teaching on natural family planning is an essential message of a university education, because for most of these young people, their path in life will mean marriage," said Father Meconi.

In St. Louis, several Catholic high schools and college campuses incorporate the message of natural family planning in the classroom.

Jeanne Stoll visits Catholic high schools to speak about natural fertility care. Stoll is a registered nurse and certified teacher of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System — one of several Church-approved methods of natural family planning — at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

The message is tailored depending on the class, including general religion/theology classes or more specific courses such as health or Theology of the Body.

"I always bring in the Church teaching on married love and sexuality," she said. "And we get into natural law and how we should allow our bodies to work in the way that God made them."

The SLU talk incorporated a messages about married love and sexuality. Dr. Teresa Hilgers, a fourth-year OB/GYN resident at Mercy Hospital who will begin fellowship in NaPro Technology in the fall, explained that "Humanae Vitae" spelled out that natural family planning "is the appropriate way to plan your families, using a natural cooperation with your body to determine when you have a family."

Emma Harty and her husband, Troy Woytek, shared their personal story of using NFP. They use the Marquette Method, an NFP method that incorporates the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor; they have three children.Woytek said he appreciateds how using NFP has boosted the couple's communication.

"We are in a culture where we're divorced from our bodies," said Woytek, a campus minister at the Catholic Student Center at Washington University in St. Louis. "It's been so educational to learn this about my wife, and the communication that comes out of that is so important to all of this. It's not just Emma's responsibility to figure (her fertility) out."

"Unlike artificial contraception, which symbolically says there is something wrong with fertility and so usually negates the beauty of sexuality — now something to be "protected" against — NFP allows couple to understand who they are at an infinitely deeper level," said Father Meconi. "In promoting NFP, a Catholic University upholds the beauty of the body, the glory of married intimacy, and invites all lovers to see in their sex lives a sacramentality of how their Creator made their bodies and why this same God brought them together for life." 

FertilityCare Awareness Week

April 3-9 is Worldwide FertilityCare Awareness Week. To learn more about the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, including how to find a doctor or practitioner, visit www.archstl.org/naturalfamilyplanning.

To read Pope Paul VI's encyclical, "Humanae Vitae," visit www.stlouisreview.com/HV 

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