A photo panel shows Pennsylvania Bishops Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown, Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg and Lawrence T. Persico of Erie. The Pennsylvania attorney general released a grand jury report Aug. 14 on a months-long investigation into abuse claims spanning a 70-year period in the six dioceses. (CNS photo | courtesy of the dioceses)

Submitted by the Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry

National Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week was observed July 22-28 and the Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry offered two types of events to mark the special week.

>On July 22, the Office hosted “Kick Off NFP Week with a Splash!” These were casual social events held at splash parks in regional locations, designed to help families meet one another and build community. Thanks to the new regional coordinators in the East and South, these events were hosted simultaneously in three locations across the diocese.

>To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of “Humanae Vitae,” a document from Pope Paul VI on human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love, and responsible parenthood, the Office sponsored the diocese’s first-ever NFP conference to dive deeper into God’s plan and Church teaching regarding life, love, and marriage. “Natural Family Planning: Good for the Body, Great for the Soul!” was held at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt on July 28 to close NFP Week. Attendees heard from special guest speakers, got overviews of the four main NFP methods, had time to visit with vendors to learn more about NFP and family life, and enjoyed a great catered meal and afternoon giveaways.

Husband and wife speaking team, Brenden and Nicole Flynn, shared their inspiring story of faith, hope, and trust in their talk, “A Powerful Witness to NFP.” Brenden and Nicole both survived severe car accidents that left them with traumatic brain injuries. Their survivals and recoveries were already miraculous, but God had greater plans in store. The Flynns were not supposed to be able to have children, but someone told them about Natural Family Planning and they switched over from artificial birth control to the Creighton Model of NFP. The Flynns received even more healing from the switch to NFP — Nicole was healed of her PMDD and they went on to conceive not only one child, but four! Their talk encouraged those at the conference to trust God when family planning, and to believe that His will is good and true.  The Flynns kept everyone on the edge of their seats, and brought a deep sense of honesty throughout their talk that elicited both laughter and tears. They laughingly told us that if they can handle NFP with short term memory loss, anyone can!

Father Kenneth Kirkman offered the next talk, “Humanae Vitae: The Voice of One Crying in the Desert.” Father Kirkman’s preaching hit home with the message that “Humanae Vitae” was a prophetic document which is just as relevant today as it was when written 50 years ago. He emphasized the sacramentality of marriage, along with the sacrifice and self-gift that it demands, and that husbands and wives are each called to give a total commitment of 100% (not 50/50). Grace, he stated, and going to the Cross is the way that couples will be able to accomplish this. Marriage is meant to be a vehicle to get your spouse to heaven, and that is done through free, total, faithful, and fruitful love. Sexual love was created to unify husband and wife and to allow them to share in the creative ability of God to bring about new life, as children are the supreme gift to marriage. But sexual love can easily become selfish and disordered, so the Church and Natural Law provide guidelines to safeguard its holiness and human happiness. Father Kirkman encouraged the audience to practice chastity (God’s design for healthy, holy, human love) appropriate to one’s state of life, to be open to new life, to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness when we have not been fully open to life, and to use Natural Family Planning rather than artificial contraception and/or sterilization when responsibly spacing children. For many of us it was the first time we heard a priest speak on the subject, and the entire audience was tremendously grateful.

To watch any of the talks, visit the Syracuse Diocese Family/Respect Life Facebook page, where they were streamed live.

All in all, it was a great day! Thanks to the more than 60 people who attended (and to their 20+ children, whom we enjoyed babysitting), and to the staff and vendors. It was great to see the young, engaged crowd, eager to hear about God’s good plan for life and love!

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