Learning about natural family planning is accepting a gift from God

SPARTANBURG – Pope John Paul II said it best: What better gift can you give a child than to give him a brother or a sister? And what better way to bring forth a child than God’s way – naturally.

Marc and Lynn Connelly certainly agree. They have cranked up natural family planning classes at Our Risen Savior, and they hope the course catches on. They pray that more people planning families trust in God and in the cycle of life.

Lynn, a convert to Catholicism, said family was crucial to her faith and her beliefs.

“During my trip into the church, we wanted to follow the teachings of the church,” she said.

“We didn’t want to pick and choose which teachings to follow,” Marc added. “We heard all the reasons and excuses (against planning a family the church’s way). What I wanted to hear was why we should follow the teachings.”

They discovered that faith and family are the keys to a happy and holy marriage.

Through research, they also learned that today’s quick fixes only lead to a high rate of divorce. Using surgical or pharmaceutical means of birth control tends to erode family and marriage.

“Less than three percent of natural family planning couples get divorced,” Marc said. “For those who don’t (use natural family planning), the divorce rate is 50 percent.”

Marc and Lynn put their marriage in God’s hands.

“The marriage covenant is to bring forth children,” Lynn said. Don’t let culture dictate when and how you have children. Let God have a place in the decision making.”

Their decision to follow the church’s teachings has been fruitful. The Connellys have been blessed with seven children.

They also began studying natural family planning under the guidance of the Couple to Couple League out of Cincinnati, which has been around since 1971.

They became certified teachers in the sympto thermal method one year ago and just started teaching the course at Our Risen Savior this month.

“It’s all natural,” Lynn said. “There’s nothing that can hurt your body. It’s safe.”

She also said anybody can learn it.

“You don’t have to be a doctor.” You just have to be aware of your body and its fertility cycle. The Connellys said both husband and wife participate in the classes.

Basically, natural family planning teaches couples how to determine the 10 days a month that pregnancy can occur.

A couple wanting to avoid a pregnancy must practice abstinence

In today’s society, many people don’t want to abstain. That, however, is not the church’s way, Lynn said.

“The church teaches that in sacrifice there is a greater good. There is a purpose in denying self.”

Done right, it works. God does not make mistakes.

“God could have made you fertile 365 days a year, but he didn’t” Lynn said.

Charting the fertility cycle and learning about your bodies then talking about it builds communication between couples and that strengthens marriages, Marc said.

“You see your sexuality as a gift from God,” he said. You see your spouse as a loving partner in God’s plan, not as “an object to be used.”

The Connellys said they are willing to work with any couple interested in natural family planning.

They also pray that parishes, and eventually the entire Diocese of Charleston, will make natural family planning courses part of pre-marriage counseling.

That is the hope of Father James LeBlanc, the pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken and director of family life for the diocese.

Father LeBlanc supports the efforts of those who teach natural family planning in the different parishes. Bishop Robert J. Baker also supports those teachers.

But making natural family planning a part of pre-Cana counseling throughout the diocese has a way to go, LeBlanc said.

“We’re not quite there,” he said.

Still, some couples have taken the initiative to teach the courses, including Chris and Jodi St. George, who offer the class as part of pre-Cana counseling at St. Peter Church in Beaufort.

Jodi said the parish supports their efforts and has embraced them wholeheartedly.

“We’re known as the NFP family,” she said laughing.

They, like the Connellys, have seven children.

Natural family planning, Jodi said, “is a wonderful thing for marriage. It makes you respect, appreciate and treasure the gift of your fertility.”

Father LeBlanc has listed several other couples who offer natural family planning courses.

They include John and Stacy Peterson as well as Charlie and Rebecca Whisonant in Rock Hill; Steve and Kim Platte in Aiken; Joe and Michelle Shahid in Mount Pleasant; Kevin and Jennifer Welsh in Goose Creek; Jon and Maureen Howey in Simpsonville; and Marjan and Nika Jemec in Greer.

For couples that have taken natural family planning courses, they indeed can look their children in the eyes and tell them the world is filled with love. God has blessed them.

For more information on natural family planning see the Diocese of Charleston Web site at www.catholic-doc.org or contact the practitioner in your area to schedule an introductory session.

For more information

Charleston: Karen Provost, (843) 745-0740.

Hilton Head Island, Pat Strimpfel, (843) 681-4494.

Columbia, Ann Nerbun, (803) 353-0857 , or Theresa Shelley, CNFPP803-699-0828.

Greenville, Nancy McGrath, (864) 292-0475.