Natural Family Planning Classes: Packed in the 70s; low today. What happened?

John and I taught natural family planning to over 100 couples a month when we first moved to Cincinnati in the early 70s.  How was this accomplished?  We taught Class #1 each week for one month, but in four different parishes.   Next month we would go back to the same parishes (teaching again once a week each week) but this time we taught the #2 Class.  Next month we were back to the same classes and teaching the #3 Class, etc.  We had 50, 60, 70 or more persons attending those classes.

Today we are happy when we have 2 or 5 couples to teach at the classes.  We teach more engaged couples through our Home Study Course.

What are the differences between then and now?

In the early 1970s, this is what we experienced.

  • The couples were married.
  • The couples were not required to be there.
  • The couples wanted to learn NFP. They had been properly catechized and followed Church teaching.
  • Because the couples were married, they were encouraged to bring their babies to class.
  • A simple church bulletin announcement produced the registrations for the classes.

Today, almost all the student couples are engaged and are required to be at an NFP class or take the course online as part of their marriage preparation.  A simple church bulletin announcement today typically produces no tangible results.  You need to have a priest or deacon recommend your classes.  If a bishop, priest or deacon does not recommend your classes, then the NFP teacher may have no one to teach.  Also, some or many of these couples do not follow Church teaching regarding chastity.  Thus, we are very happy when couples comment on how much they learned taking our course, especially when they indicate an improvement in their spiritual lives.

Personal history:  I was 7 months pregnant when we moved to Cincinnati and soon had our 4th baby.  We did not leave our babies at home to teach the classes.  We simply took our 4th and later our 5th baby to the NFP classes for their first 2 years.  If the baby needed to nurse, John kept teaching while I took a nursing break.  We had little promotion for our classes which were well attended.  We taught once a week as mentioned above.

In the 70s, on a weekend, we taught natural family planning to 100 couples at a retreat center near our city.  Could we do that today?   It would be almost a miracle if that happened today.

What we taught in those days is what we teach today:  the theology of the marriage covenant, the various options of the sympto-thermal method, and ecological breastfeeding.  Our teaching has not changed…just the Church and social environments.

Sheila Kippley

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