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Helping couples to deepen conjugal love and achieve responsible parenthood is part of the Church's total pastoral ministry to Catholic spouses. Fulfillment of this ministry includes both education and pastoral care. This means "instilling conviction and offering practical help to those who wish to live out their parenthood in a truly responsible way" (Familiaris consortio, no.35). Diocesan Natural Family Planning services must be based on the Church's doctrine and moral teaching, as well as on the accumulated wisdom of the sciences.Concretely, diocesan Natural Family Planning (hereafter NFP) ministry involves the following:
- Instruction on human fertility and procreation including a fundamental education of the fertility cycle and how to interpret the physiological signs of fertility
- A process for enabling couples to understand motivation and other factors that affect their decision making with regard to responsible parenthood
- Formation in recognizing the value of moral commitment and spirituality that reinforces the human decision while integrating wholesome attitudes toward parenting and family life.
To help couples become proficient and secure in using NFP, dioceses must provide competent NFP services. Such services should call upon the laity (especially the married),clergy, religious, healthcare professionals, and others in related fields.
(Introduction, Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry, p. 1)
The above opening section from the Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry highlights the unique character of NFP education offered under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Diocesan NFP ministry seeks to provide quality NFP services within the context of education on the Sacrament of Marriage. NFP ministry brings science and faith together in a way that supports a married couple's moral stewardship of their God-given gifts of human sexuality and fertility.
In the Catholic dioceses of the United States, NFP ministry
is usually located in the office of marriage and family life. In some
dioceses NFP ministry can be found under other offices such as that of
faith formation, respect life activities, or Catholic Charities. Some Catholic hospitals may provide NFP education. Regardless of where the NFP ministry is housed, it is typically administered by the Diocesan NFP Coordinator and is staffed by volunteer NFP teachers.
The following provides information on diocesan NFP ministry programming and specific resources for the diocesan NFP coordinator, NFP teacher and clergy.
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