A journey of love

by claudia mathis / sun staff writer

The Syracuse Diocese is now offering people an opportunity to achieve a happy, successful marriage through the CREIGHTON MODEL FertilityCare System, an advanced natural family planning procreative program. This system is a modification of NaPro Technology, a new reproductive and gynecological science that has been developed at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb.

Joan Nolan, fertility care specialist at the diocesan Office of Fertility Care, has completed the coursework at the institute and she now teaches the CREIGHTON system at her office at Holy Family Parish in Syracuse. Since November 2006, she has trained 35 couples. “It’s important to have this program available to people because it will bring back strong marriages,” said Nolan. “And with strong marriages, you will have strong families, strong school systems, strong communities, a beautifully strong church and vocations.”

Nolan said the system affords couples an opportunity to mutually value, respect and understand their fertility. Many couples find that the love and respect each holds for the other grows as their understanding of their fertility grows. It accepts fertility as a normal and healthy process, which is a precious gift from God — a gift to be loved, respected, understood and widely used.

The CREIGHTON system relies upon the standardized observation and charting of biological markers that are essential to understanding a woman’s heath and fertility. These biomarkers tell the couple when they are naturally fertile and infertile, allowing the couple to use the system either to achieve or to avoid pregnancy. The biomarkers also identify abnormalities in a woman’s health. With a few minutes of daily observation, a woman gains insight into the function of her body.

Liz and Mark Bremer have been trained to use the system and are now expecting their first child. They became interested in the system after hearing about it at a seminar, which was part of their marriage preparation. Liz said she was attracted to the natural aspect of the method.

Nolan taught the couple the basics of the system. “I thought the information was interesting and helpful,” said Liz. “She’s a great teacher — all our questions were answered. I feel I’m more in tune with my body as a result of learning the system.”

Mark said he thought the system was based on some very good information and it educates people well. “We wanted to know more about fertility,” said Mark. “Doing this has brought us closer together because it’s fostered a lot of discussion between us.”

The couple used the system to avoid a pregnancy during the two-year period after their marriage in 2005, and, continuing to use the system, they achieved a pregnancy. Liz is 14 weeks pregnant. “We’re very excited,” she said.

Learning the CREIGHTON system begins with an introductory session that explains scientific foundations, methodology, applications to various reproductive categories and how to track menstrual cycles. “I tell them that it works with the woman’s procreative gynecological health,” said Nolan. “We discuss fertility appreciation, which our culture tries to eradicate. We also discuss NaProTECHNOLOGY, which is a new reproductive science that works cooperatively with the natural procreative cycle. You’re working with the body. It’s a more natural approach.”

Nolan also explains achieving and avoiding pregnancy and SPICE (expressing love spiritually, physically, intellectually, creatively and emotionally). Nolan said that when a couple abstains from the physical expression of love they develop their communication skills by communicating in different ways. The couple’s relationship is more balanced. Marital bonding becomes very strong.

Nolan remembered how one of her clients was very excited at the conclusion of the introductory session and said, “I can see how this is going to make a big difference in our marriage. We are going to start communicating on a different level.”
“That’s the golden nugget that makes this so powerful,” said Nolan. “New life springs forth from the most intimate moments of their married life. From these most intimate moments new life springs forth. God’s creative energy comes into play.”

Learning the system continues with a series of essential, individualized follow-up teaching sessions (personal instruction on the use of the system and complete chart review). At each private follow-up, Nolan tailors the system to the couple’s specific needs.

Nolan explained that the introductory session lasts 90 minutes. After that, the couple attends eight follow-up sessions. Every two weeks for the first two months, they attend four follow-up sessions. Three of them occur in the next month after that. The last session lasts approximately 90 minutes. “The program takes a little bit of getting used to, but usually by the second follow-up in the sixth week, they’ve got it and it’s not such a big deal,” said Nolan. “They work together at determining her fertile and infertile days.”

Nolan also educates couples on infertility issues. “It’s a great help to them,” said Nolan. “You can diagnose what’s going on with them through their charts.” Nolan said that after a couple learns the system, the chances of an infertile couple conceiving a child is 20 to 40 percent. If the system is used along with medical intervention, the percentage goes up to 80 percent. “What happens over time is that the woman learns how to read her body. She is so keyed into what is going on with her body, she can go to her doctor and explain in detail what is going on,” said Nolan.

Nolan said that for a number of years, Bishop James Moynihan was in charge of a committee that studied the disturbing trends in marriages and family life. They discovered that as contraceptives became available the divorce rate rose in correlation. The number of legal abortions also rose in relation to the use of contraceptives. “In a sense, it is the contraception that ushered in this culture of death,” said Nolan. “I believe that natural family planning is going to usher it out. Over time, the program changes their hearts about how they think about the church — about how wise the church is. We’ve seen the destruction of the family. Pope Paul VI predicted that that would happen in 1966. But the church is responding. The more people I talk to about this program the better. I believe that this is what is going to put an end to Planned Parenthood. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I believe we can do it.”

Father Philip Brockmyre, parochial vicar at Holy Family in Syracuse, said he thinks that family life has been undermined by the use of contraception. “It impacts a couple’s relationship — it’s corrosive,” said Father Brockmyre. “The wife begins to feel exploited. She becomes less sexually interested. It has an effect on her libido. People don’t realize that this has nothing to do with their relationship — they feel this way because they don’t realize that there is something about it, which is not consistent with God’s plan. As a result, there’s a separation of spirits because nobody knows what’s going on.”

Father Brockmyre was personally involved with natural family planning at one time. He was married 40 years before becoming a priest. He has eight children. “After practicing contraception for 11 years,” said Father Brockmyre, “We started using natural family planning. When we started using it we were surprised by a number of things. We gained an incredible sense of intimacy. I cared more. And secondly, our view on having children gradually changed. Before, we thought it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we had another child. But, then we thought it would be kind of nice to have another child. We went on to have two more children and they are a delight in my old age.”

Nolan’s clients are commonly referred to her by various sources — the diocesan Family Life Office, referrals from former clients and through pre-cana classes.

Father Brockmyre said that engaged couples in the Holy Family pre-marriage “Preparing to Live in Love” program are introduced to the CREIGHTON system through the opportunity of viewing the introductory session during the marriage preparation program.

“We’d love to expand this exposure to engaged couples who are involved in marriage preparation programs at every parish of the diocese,” said Nolan. “Also, I’d like to find at least one couple in each parish who is using the program and collaborate with them so that I could give a presentation at that parish.”

Nolan said two of her former clients have expressed an interest in being trained as teachers of the program. “I’d love to get another person to assist me. We’re working on it,” she said.

“I’ve met the finest, most faith-filled people you could ever imagine,” said Nolan. “The new church is going to spring from this.”
For more information about the program, call Joan Nolan at (315) 488-3139.

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