Published July 15, 2004
In his Letter to Families (1994) Pope John Paul II cites ministry to the family as one of the church’s essential duties. The family is the building block of society and, our faith tells us, the “domestic church.”
It is the place where husband and wife love each other “as Christ loves the church” (Eph. 5:32). It is also the place where children are welcomed and nurtured. As part of the overall programs which the church provides to support marriage and family life, Natural Family Planning holds a foundational place.
Diocesan NFP programs are the vehicles though which the church helps married couples to live out their conjugal love responsibly. These programs provide classes on any one of the methods of NFP for the engaged and the married. In addition, diocesan NFP programs often provide chastity and fertility appreciation education to both parents and adolescents. They also serve as resource centers for information on issues affecting human sexuality such as infertility, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. Presently about half of the U.S. dioceses have an NFP coordinator who administers a clearly designed program with a wide range of services. In dioceses where NFP coordinators have not been appointed, there are at least diocesan contacts who refer couples to individual NFP teachers.
Diocesan NFP programs are most commonly found under the department of Marriage and Family Life. They may also be part of Pro-Life Activities, Catholic charities and hospitals. Some are freestanding departments in and of themselves. Where NFP services are found in a diocese depends upon the history of its development in a particular region. When a diocesan NFP program is strong, it is an invaluable resource to clergy and lay ministers alike.
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, NFP ministry can be found in the Family Life Office. Lynn Crutchfield is the coordinator of the ministry.