Natural family planning gets revamped to include new technology, theology of the body
OMAHA, Neb. (Catholic Voice) – The Couple to Couple League, a leading provider of training in natural family planning, hopes its updated outreach materials and methods will help attract couples looking for a natural way to regulate pregnancy, said Andy Alderson, executive director of Couple to Couple League.
Alderson said change was needed if the organization wanted to continue reaching couples.
"Because the Church says so is not good enough anymore," he said. "Young couples need to be reached in a new manner and engaged on multiple levels."
To do that, Couple to Couple League teachers now use an instructional DVD embedded with video clips of experts, including a priest and a medical doctor. The DVD also features computer animation of ovulation and implantation. The organization’s thick, monochrome reference manual has been replaced by a full-color, graphics-rich workbook that couples can write in throughout class.
"We used to use a slide projector that was loud and ‘old’ to young couples and this seemed to create an instant barrier to the information we were providing," said Troy and Anne Easterday, a Couple to Couple League teaching couple for the Omaha area. "We have noticed a sense of revitalization and excitement about the new Couple to Couple League makeover from ourselves and others who have been involved with it. The technology is up-to-date and the style is more in tune with how our target audience seems to learn."
Classroom instruction is more interactive, too. Couples fill out charts within 45 minutes of the start of the first class. Before, that didn’t occur until well into the second class.
"It is very much more hands-on and seems to engage students better," Troy Easterday said. "With increased in-class participation and follow-up, we are able to do more while taking less time from a couple’s typically busy schedule."
Theology of the Body
One of the biggest changes that came with the organization’s makeover last winter is that all the training materials are based on Pope John Paul II’s "Theology of the Body," which is an integrated vision of the human person — body, soul and spirit. As the late pope explained, the physical human body has a specific meaning and is capable of revealing answers regarding fundamental questions about people and their lives.
Alderson said using Pope John Paul’s theology makes the information they share about natural family planning more appealing to couples, especially those who have an interfaith marriage.
"John Paul had the gift that you didn’t have to be Catholic to love him and his personal approach of ‘Theology of the Body’ has a lot to do with that," Alderson said. "Most people can understand that I have an innate dignity as a human person and you really can teach ‘Theology of the Body’ without ever saying Catholic or church."
The Easterdays said students now learn how the body is the expression of the person and that the body speaks a language.
"We express our love in the most intimate way through the marital union," Anne Easterday said. "As images of God, we are called to love as he loves and natural family planning gives us the tools to read the language of love spoken by the body."
This makes learning and practicing natural family planning a "beautiful, positive expression of both marital love and of the dignity and mystery of who we are as men and women," she said.
"Theology of the Body" also provides a way to discover more about the eternal love of God, the Easterdays said.
Use of Internet
To better reach young people, Couple to Couple League has increased its use of the Internet.
"If you want to reach out to young people, you better put it online because that’s where they’re at," Alderson said.
Not only does it help with sharing information, but it also makes the communication exchange easier, he said.
For example, couples are now able to meet in an online forum to find support for their countercultural practice. They also can optionally track their fertility signs in a new electronic charting program, and easily send data to their teachers for any needed follow-up.
The Web access also enables Couple to Couple League trainers, who used to rely on a paper process to train natural family planning teachers, to support, evaluate and certify candidates much more swiftly. The Internet makes training teachers easier, and the training is more comprehensive than before, Alderson said.
"If a couple really has the will to get it done, you can get it done really fast right from your home," Alderson said.
Couples today have a variety of choices when it comes to regulating pregnancy, Alderson said. Natural family planning provides the opportunity "to live your marriage as God intended," he said, and it also helps in terms of communication and health.
"There are a lot of reasons to practice natural family planning that don’t have anything necessarily to do with morality," Alderson said.
He said he hopes couples will consider a natural family planning method ... even if it’s not through the Couple to Couple League. If they do choose Couple to Couple League, however, he wants to make sure their method and the way they present it is appealing.
"We’ve tried to make our program as attractive and as appealing as we can to today’s audience," he said. "And that’s important because they set high expectations."
This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Catholic Voice (www.catholicvoiceomaha.com), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.
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