About Diocesan NFP Ministry
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, 35)
Diocesan Natural Family Planning services are based on the Church's doctrine and moral teaching, as well as on the accumulated wisdom of the sciences. Concretely, the 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.
(Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry, Introduction)
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 over their God-given gifts of human sexuality, the nuptial meaning of the body, human fertility, and procreation.
The theological and pastoral principles that form the foundation of diocesan NFP ministry are found in the papal encyclical Humanae vitae (1968). The U. S. bishops' first pastoral response to the encyclical in 1969 was to fund the Human Life Foundation (later called, ). The Foundation was commissioned to study the natural methods of family planning as an important step to establish NFP programs in the dioceses. In 1981, the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities founded the Diocesan Development Program for NFP (now called NFP Program) and published their pastoral plan for diocesan NFP ministry. In 1990, their pastoral plan was further refined when they approved the Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry. See below to read more about diocesan NFP ministry and its foundational documents.
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.
Additional information about diocesan NFP ministry programming and resources can be found at
Diocesan NFP Ministry Foundations
Diocesan NFP services exist because of God's plan for married love and the gift of life. These teachings are beautifully articulated in the papal encyclical Humanae vitae. Please see our Humanae vitae page to learn more and for resources.
Diocesan Plan for Natural Family Planning Program Development
This 1981 document is the foundational pastoral plan for diocesan NFP ministry in the United States. Dr. Mary Catherine Martin, PhD, RN, an NFP pioneer, was a primary contributor to this document.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Martin conducted extensive research (including interviews, surveys and on-site pastoral visits) to gain a thorough understanding of NFP services in the dioceses of the United States. Dr. Martin's original study was further developed by the founders of the U.S. bishops' NFP program (in 1980) and by members of the Board of Directors of the Human Life and NFP Foundation (originally funded by the U. S. bishops just before the promulgation of the papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae). It was refined by the U. S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities and accepted by them as their NFP diocesan pastoral plan. It served as a strong source of pastoral planning until 1990 when the bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities published the Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry which articulate the basic requirements for quality and strong diocesan NFP ministry. (NB: The Standards were first a document of the U.S. bishops Committee for Pro-Life Activities. In 2007, the bishops Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth became responsible for the document. And in 2010, the members of the Administrative Committee of Bishops adopted the document as their own.
Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry
Please see our page on the Standards for Diocesan NFP Ministry to learn about how the process of implementation of the Standards can help you to develop your diocesan NFP program. You can also learn about how to apply for the USCCB award of Endorsement for your diocese.
- "Outgoing, Confident, & Competent:" Diocesan NFP Coordinators and The Implementation of the National Standards, Theresa Notare. Published in the USCCB's NFP Diocesan Activity Report (1995). The Assistant Director of the USCCB NFP Program, Theresa Notare, provides a down-to-earth approach for NFP coordinators. She stresses the importance of connecting with others in the parish and keeping knowledgeable and positive about the important work of Natural Family Planning within the dioceses.
- "USA Catholic Diocesan NFP Ministry."A brief history of diocesan NFP ministry in the United States.
Pioneers of Diocesan NFP Ministry
In the dioceses of the United States, inspired men and women, including the single and married, laity, religious, and clergy have responded to God's invitation to share His divine plan of married love and the gift of life with the faithful. These individuals are the pioneers of the diocesan NFP ministry. Read their stories and hear their witness in the links below.
- Watch a video featuring the USCCB's NFP Program Assistant Director, Theresa Notare, PhD speak about the characteristics that she has seen in diocesan NFP leaders over the years. This reflection was presented at the 2018 symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of Humanae vitae. Entitled, Humanae Vitae, 50 Years Later, Embracing God's Vision for Marriage, Love and Life, A Compendium, the book is available from The Catholic University of America Press (2019). Orders, 1-800-537-5487.
- Lead with Church Teaching; NFP Conversations with Alice Heinzen (Diocese of La Crosse) and Cindy Leonard (Diocese of Phoenix) about the importance of leading with Church teaching in NFP ministry.
- NFP Conversations with diocesan pioneers Donna Dausman (Diocese of Springfield in Il) and Mary Pat Van Epps (Diocese of Memphis). Listen, laugh, and be inspired by these two diocesan NFP pioneers who remember what it was like in the early days of the diocesan NFP ministry in the USA.
- The Diocese of Richmond, a brief history of NFP ministry
- The Diocese of Phoenix, a brief history of NFP ministry