By Dominique Johnson
The North Star Catholic
Every year during July, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops highlights Natural Family Planning (NFP) with NFP Awareness Week. This year NFP will be highlighted during the week of July 25-31, with the theme: to have, to hold, to honor, Natural Family Planning supporting God’s gifts of love and life in marriage.
In the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, Rachael Fogal shares information and facilitates classes on NFP to couples going through marriage preparation and others interested in the practice, following the example of St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. “Centers for natural methods of regulating fertility should be promoted as a valuable help to responsible parenthood.”
For the last 20 years, Fogal has taught the Billings Method of NFP in the Anchorage area. She shared that most people do not know what Natural Family Planning is until they are required to take a course for marriage prep through the Church. She shared that she believes it should be taught to teens “because that is the best time to learn it, so they can better understand their signs of fertility.”
Fogal said that there are common misconceptions about Natural Family Planning that are overcome by better education and discussion. She noted that many people think the Church is teaching the rhythm method. “Back in the day, that is what we had,” Fogal said. However, the Billings Method “works on daily signs that tell you whether you are fertile or infertile that day” to help couples discuss whether or not they want to achieve conception.
The use of NFP is “highly reliable,” Fogal said, and that when couples achieve a pregnancy, “the couple knew it was a possibility based off their chart.”
Fogal said some of the people who participate in the NFP training are using an artificial contraception method. The classes, however, begin planting a seed of what the Church teaches about the beauty of natural designs of fertility in God’s design of the body. Fogal said, sometimes it takes time for NFP to make sense for a couple, “They may not understand the benefit of NFP at first. It may take a couple of years of practice.” She added, “It can be very beneficial for communication skills in a relationship, but you don’t always see that at first.”
Fogal shared that the NFP training in the archdiocese isn’t offered only to engaged couples going through marriage prep but to all interested in learning about Natural Family Planning. She said, “Sometimes a parish priest has a homily on NFP, and for one reason or another, a couple never heard the message that the use of the pill wasn’t fine,” so they decide to take the course.
Another reason couples decide to learn more about NFP is that they are struggling with infertility, Fogal said. By learning Natural Family Planning, they understand their natural signs of fertility and if there might be underlying concerns. “We assist them for as long as they need,” Fogal said. “They are some of my favorite couples to work with because they are so motivated, and it is a team effort.”
If you are an engaged couple going through marriage prep or want to learn Natural Family Planning, you can sign up for in-person or Zoom courses at aknfp.com or email Rachael Fogal at firstname.lastname@example.org.