.- By Jack Sheedy
Members of the Norwalk, Connecticut-based Gospel of Life Society are working to encourage medical practitioners to follow Catholic teachings when couples want to avoid contraception. One parish, St. Maryâs, has implemented a pro-life committee to recruit and educate practitioners about Natural Family Planning.
The committee now numbers about 30 health care practitioners and meets three times a year. Its first major event will be co-sponsorship of a seminar on Jan. 17 at the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center.
âFor any problem a girl has, whether itâs cramps or [menstrual] irregularity or anything, [doctors] automatically say, âHereâs the Pill, take the Pill,ââ said Eileen Bianchini, chair of the Gospel of Life Society that boasts about 400 members from 58 parishes in all dioceses of Connecticut.
Dr. Leonie S. Watson, a fertility consultant based in New Jersey, agreed. During a presentation she said, âWhen the patient wants to use natural family planning and doesnât want to use contraception, the doctor says, âHereâs the Pill. For you, itâs necessary.â No, it isnât. But if [patients] donât have anywhere to turn or they donât know thereâs an alternative, theyâre stuck.â
Dr. Watson spoke on NaProTechnology (natural procreative technology), an emerging reproductive science that allows couples to achieve pregnancy naturally and women to be treated for a variety of gynecologic conditions. Central to NaProTechnology, and to Dr. Watsonâs practice, is the Creighton Model, a system of natural family planning that involves detailed charting of a womanâs fertility cycles.
Father Greg J. Markey, Pastor of St. Mary Parish, started the Gospel of Life Society about nine years ago because he perceived a lack of involvement in pro-life issues in both the lay and clerical community. He said, âI was networking with other priests and saying, âWhere is everybody on this?ââ
Father Markey told The Catholic Transcript, âWe started because there are so many Catholics out there but very little organization to keep us all networked. We have trouble keeping everybody moving on this issue. A lot of Catholics are not speaking up.â
He said Connecticut is one of the most pro-abortion states in the nation and many Catholics are poorly committed to pro-life causes.
âI think Catholics have become comfortable with dissent from Catholic teaching and thatâs a real problem,â he said. âWhen we try to raise the issue, Catholics are just not responding.â
Father Markey said every Catholic is called to respond to pro-life issues. âWeâre trying to encourage Catholics to know their faith and to act on their faith. Itâs not enough to call yourself Catholic; you must truly be Catholic,â he said.
Dorothy Dugandzic, a fertility care practitioner and managing director of the St. Augustine Foundation, a Yonkers, N.Y.-based natural family planning center, met Father Markey about nine years ago. That meeting was the stimulus that led to the formation of the Gospel of Life Society.
âHe was very concerned, and so was I, that there was not very much going on with natural family planning in Connecticut,â she told The Transcript. âHeâs a die-hard NFP priest here in Connecticut and Iâm happy to know him.â
Mrs. Bianchini said, âI think what he felt was needed in Connecticut was networking, that there were a lot of groups but they werenât talking to each other. Thatâs what this group does, and thatâs why weâre growing so fast.â
Mrs. Bianchini mails information to sponsors in 58 parishes each month, and the sponsors spread the word by publishing it in church bulletins, tacking it on bulletin boards or organizing local events.
âPeople like being networked. They like knowing about each other and knowing whatâs going on and being empowered,â she said.
Barbara Costello is one of many members who belong to other parishes but drive to the meetings.
âThereâs something very special about whatâs going on at St. Maryâs in Norwalk,â she said. âIt takes me an hour to get there but itâs worth it.â
She said she belongs to a pro-life group at St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield, but that one is run by laypersons. âAt Norwalk, thereâs a priest present,â she said. âThe power of the [clergy] is there.â
Besides attracting medical practitioners Dr. Watson and Ms. Dugandzic, the Gospel of Life Society includes family practitioner Dr. Judith Mascolo of West Hartford and nurse practitioner Cortney Davis of Redding.
Ms. Davis wrote in an e-mail that the new medical committee looks for ânew ways of reaching both doctors and clergy to keep them informed about pro-life and contraception issues, specifically that the NaProTechnology is available and that there are practitioners to whom couples and women might be referred.â
Information on the Gospel of Life Society is available from Mrs. Bianchini at www.stmarynorwalk.net/gospel_lifebox.html.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut.