When Mary and Sean Bell were planning their life together before their June 2015 wedding, natural family planning was not something they agreed on at first.
“She wasn’t necessarily for it,” said Sean, 23, “but I was for it. We found ourselves at a crossroads, talked about it, and came to a decision to learn about it.”
As Sean finished up his senior year at Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University, his fiancée, 24-year-old Mary, working as a nurse at Virtua-Mount Holly, began talking with Cecilia and Mark LeChevallier, trained and certified volunteers of the Couple to Couple League (CCL). Over the course of three months, and taking classes, she changed her mind on the worth of NFP.
“Initially, I thought it was going to fail, but so far, it has worked for us. It’s changed my mind, and I would definitely suggest it to other people,” she said.
This method of helping couples find the most fertile time of the woman’s cycle can aid a man and woman in planning or postponing pregnancy, consistent with the Catholic Church’s teaching.
From July 24-30, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will mark National Family Planning Awareness Week, in conjunction with the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” issued on July 25, 1968, which articulated the church’s teaching on love, marriage, and responsible parenthood.
This year’s NFP week theme is “Love, Mercy, Life — Natural Family Planning — Opening the heart of marriage.” The feast of Saints Anne and Joachim (July 26), parents of the Blessed Mother, fall during the week.
In their document “Married Love and the Gift of Life,” the U.S. bishops write that God’s gift to a husband and wife is the “ability in and through their love to cooperate with God’s creative power. Therefore, the mutual gift of fertility is an integral part of the bonding power of marital intercourse. That power to create a new life with God is at the heart of what spouses share with each other. “
The bishops state in the document, “Suppressing fertility by using contraception denies part of the inherent meaning of married sexuality and does harm to the couple’s unity.”
The Bells currently are going through an online, self-paced NFP course through the CCL.
Cecilia LeChevallier and husband Mark serve as NFP coordinators for the Diocese of Camden.
CCL, approved by the USCCB, has taught natural family planning for over 45 years in every diocese in the United States, and in countries such as Poland, Argentina and Colombia.
Mary and Sean are in frequent contact with Cecilia and Mark about natural family planning, and hope to one day be able to teach it themselves.
Currently residing in Marlton, the Bells are parishioners at Saint Mary of the Lakes in Medford, Diocese of Trenton, where they lead the parish’s young adult ministry.
Currently living in a one-bedroom townhouse, the two would like a larger house with their own backyard before starting their family.
The two say that natural family planning has brought them closer together as a couple living out their faith.
“I came from not believing it would ever work at all, and now, I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way,” Mary said.
Other birth control methods, Sean believes, “are all about fulfilling a worldly, instinctual desire. To have what you want, whenever you want.”
“Natural family planning has made us appreciate intimacy more,” he said.
To learn more about natural family panning and the Couple to Couple League, visit wwww.usccb.org, or www.ccli.org
A natural family planning course will begin on Thursday, Aug. 11, from 7:15-9:30 p.m. in Voorhees, and continue at the same time on Sept. 8 and Oct. 6. Interested couples can register online by Aug. 4 at www.ccli.org