Group recruits pro-life practitioners to educate on Natural Family Planning

.- 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. Mary’s, 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.

“For any problem a girl has, whether it’s cramps or [menstrual] irregularity or anything, [doctors] automatically say, ‘Here’s the Pill, take the Pill,’” 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, “When the patient wants to use natural family planning and doesn’t want to use contraception, the doctor says, ‘Here’s the Pill. For you, it’s necessary.’ No, it isn’t. But if [patients] don’t have anywhere to turn or they don’t know there’s an alternative, they’re stuck.”

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. Watson’s practice, is the Creighton Model, a system of natural family planning that involves detailed charting of a woman’s 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, “I was networking with other priests and saying, ‘Where is everybody on this?’”

Father Markey told The Catholic Transcript, “We 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.”

He said Connecticut is one of the most pro-abortion states in the nation and many Catholics are poorly committed to pro-life causes.

“I think Catholics have become comfortable with dissent from Catholic teaching and that’s a real problem,” he said. “When we try to raise the issue, Catholics are just not responding.”

Father Markey said every Catholic is called to respond to pro-life issues. “We’re trying to encourage Catholics to know their faith and to act on their faith. It’s not enough to call yourself Catholic; you must truly be Catholic,” 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.

“He was very concerned, and so was I, that there was not very much going on with natural family planning in Connecticut,” she told The Transcript. “He’s a die-hard NFP priest here in Connecticut and I’m happy to know him.”

Mrs. Bianchini said, “I think what he felt was needed in Connecticut was networking, that there were a lot of groups but they weren’t talking to each other. That’s what this group does, and that’s why we’re growing so fast.”

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.

“People like being networked. They like knowing about each other and knowing what’s going on and being empowered,” she said.

Barbara Costello is one of many members who belong to other parishes but drive to the meetings.

“There’s something very special about what’s going on at St. Mary’s in Norwalk,” she said. “It takes me an hour to get there but it’s worth it.”

She said she belongs to a pro-life group at St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield, but that one is run by laypersons. “At Norwalk, there’s a priest present,” she said. “The power of the [clergy] is there.”

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 “new 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.”

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.

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