Fr. Charlie Goraieb, center, and two deacons, pray over those gathered for a Mass for couples struggling with infertility. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Fr. Charlie Goraieb, center, and two deacons, pray over those gathered for a May 3 Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica for couples struggling with infertility. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Couples from throughout the diocese gathered for the first St. Gerard Mass of Comfort and Hope May 3 at St. Mary’s Basilica. The diocesan Office of Natural Family Planning hosted the liturgy for all those affected by infertility. It happened to coincide with National Infertility Awareness Week.

“This Mass has been a long-time coming,” Fr. Charlie Goraieb, pastor of St. Timothy in Mesa, said at the onset of his homily. He said it was important to gather to affirm that God was with them through the process. Leaving God out can lead to choices that go against Church teaching, such as in vitro fertilization.

“There are a lot of technologies that can be brought forward that aren’t in line with God’s plan for human life,” he said.

The priest, who has taught Theology of the Body courses, also wanted to affirm couples that they were not alone in the struggle to conceive. He addressed married couples and those they represented who couldn’t come or hadn’t heard about the special liturgy.

Infertility can appear at the onset of the marital embrace, as a second instance after successfully conceiving at least once or as a result of multiple miscarriages, he said. Any of it is a sign of persistent hope.

“There is that longing need in the hearts of couples like yourselves,” Fr. Goriaeb told them.

He said it’s an innate desire of the human heart to want to become a parent, but at the same time, it’s also countercultural to be a mother. Children are sometimes seen as a burden.

“Yet in the midst of that are couples who want to conceive… but have not been able to participate in this creation of new life,” Fr. Goriaeb said.

He recounted the models in the Scriptures, especially Hannah’s experience which was highlighted in the readings. Later the couples received a group blessing from Fr. Goriaeb and two deacons asking for physical and spiritual healing.

A reception after Mass offered another source of hope. Couples found information from a natural fertility treatment center and on NaPro Technology and the Creighton Model, both which are endorsed by Church teaching. Two pro-life doctors held conversations for more than an hour, with couples waiting in line to ask questions and discuss options.

Cindy Leonard, director of the Office of Natural Family Planning, said she received many words of gratitude for hosting the Mass and introducing NaPro Technology. She trusts that couples left with a sense of hope for their particular situation and a sense that they’re not alone.

“We want them to know that the Church has wonderful teachings to share and pastorally we want to walk this journey beside them, helping them to find the resources and support that they need,” Leonard said.