Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

4. A Philippine Experience: Sister Helen Paul

The question is asked whether NFP is only for white, suburban, upper-middle class people, or for ordinary folk. Let me speak from the experience I have had in the Philippines, and also in the Archdiocese of Newark.

I believe that NFP as an educational program, is applicable and valuable for couples everywhere. I believe that NFP can give a couple fertility control, whatever their purposes may be. It can do much more than that: it can build the marriage relationship through sharing the responsibility for the gift of fertility, and through the development of mutual respect.

The reason I believe this is related to the experience of teaching NFP on the Island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, in the Province of Bukidnon. There I had the opportunity to observe marvelous growth of persons, an increase in marital harmony, in from 4,000 to 5,000 couples whom we were able to reach with this educational program, over a period of eight years.

There were farmers, fishermen and others. I'd say that the farmers and fishermen were 95 percent, the engineers, nurses, doctors and such only 5 percent of the population. We began the program in an effort to help families with an average of eight children per family. With an income of $1.00 per day, it was just impossible to feed, educate and clothe them properly.

We went to the homes, taught them personally rather than in groups. Those teaching them were their social equals. The couples succeeded in controlling their fertility and much more, as the report of the employer indicated: population growth diminished, and a remarkable improvement in the law-and-order situation in the camps of the laborers was noticeable.

The thing that impressed me most, and keeps me interested in this program today, is the fact that it's a beautiful opportunity to observe persons grow. A change seems to occur in an individual's self-image, the way a man sees himself as a man. He becomes a person aware of his dignity, a person worthy of respect; a person who can expect respect from his peers, from his wife, and his children. His personal discovery of self-control in his sexual life opens up to him the opportunity for change in other areas: gambling, smoking, alcohol. It is interesting that a change in an individual's self-image opens to him a possibility for change in many other areas of life.

The children used to comment about the change in mom and dad. No more fighting at home, they say. And when this happens within a home, the children apply it in their own relationships. We see this change in behavior of children because of the change in the parents.

Here in New Jersey I was delighted to meet couples who have the patience to try NFP. I believe that this is the key phrase for success: the patience to try. It takes only a very short time to discover that you really can manage this system, which is not at all as complicated as it may seem at first. And these couples have not only tried it themselves, but they live it each day, and have gone on to promote it among others, to share the values that they have discovered enhancing their own marriage.

In our work for the Newark Archdiocese, we have made efforts to reach the foreigners. We have learned that here too, as in the Philippines, the large gatherings are not the acceptable way to reach these people, Spaniards, or Cubans, or South Americans. They need the privacy of person-to-person approach. But I am very confident that there too, as in the Philippines, within six months they will have the courage and enthusiasm to go out and speak publicly of fertility control as a couple.

I believe that American Society needs a challenge. I believe that couples need to be challenged to try NFP. Marriages today are in dire need of assistance. One of the strongest ways to assist marriage is for the Church, doctors and others to offer couples the practice of NFP.

I believe that if couples are encouraged to try - encouraged by their clergymen and their doctors - then NFP is for all couples, regardless of their standing in society. I believe that not to challenge them is to underestimate their potential, that God-given potential which lies within each person.

Given at a workshop on NFP at St. Mary's Abbey, Morristown, New Jersey, Jan. 23, 1979

Next Page: 5. NFP in Mauritius
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