Among life’s many struggles, the journey to conception is often a quiet one, but not a road destined for the couple to walk alone.
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The Office of Natural Family Planning invites such couples to its fourth annual St. Gerard’s Mass of Comfort and Hope. The April 29 Mass falls during Infertility Awareness Week and will be held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in a chapel dedicated to St. John Paul II, a modern-day-saint whose Theology of the Body teachings examine marriage and family life, among other things.
Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix first encounter Natural Family Planning, a Church-approved means to space out children using one of four methods, as part of the marriage preparation process. The NFP office is there for Catholics during their entire reproductive lifetime with free refresher enrollment. The office even has 10 fertility monitors available on loan.
Infertility can be a really lonely journey, said Cindy Leonard, coordinator of the Office of Natural Family Planning. Some 15 to 20 percent of couples will struggle with primary or secondary infertility in their lifetime.
“It’s spiritually painful more than anybody can imagine,” she said.
Leonard drew both on her own experience and those of the couples her office has helped since its formation more than 40 years ago. Leonard was grateful she and her husband were NFP teachers early on in their marriage — before classes were a prenuptial requirement — and knew of some Church-approved options to help them.
St. Gerard’s Mass of Comfort and Hope
What: Special liturgy for all affected by infertility
When: 6 p.m., April 29
Where: Diocesan Pastoral Center, 400 E. Monroe St.
Info: (602) 354-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Not everyone does, so attending the special Mass and reception can introduce them. NFP teachers and board members will be there in solidarity and a small resource fair will feature an NFP booth, Catholic Charities, Morningstar OBGYN and St. Timothy’s Foster and Adoptive Support Ministry.
“The couples have expressed such overwhelming gratitude to our Church,” Leonard said, noting their feeling of love and affirmation by the Church.
Domonic Salce and his wife, parishioners at St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert, attended for the first time last year. They briefly shared their story after Mass in an effort to spread hope and encouragement.
“We encouraged everyone to continue to have faith in Christ to know what is best for us and to help us walk the path that we were meant to walk,” Salce said.
The couple tried infertility treatments, but finally grew their family via adoption. Their daughter is now 4 years old and the family remains open to future adoptions.
He encouraged any couple carrying the particular cross of infertility to come to the Mass for spiritual healing. It’s important they know there are others who have experienced “the pain and the triumph in faith on the journey,” Salce said.
Two couples will share their stories following this year’s liturgy.
“We certainly have the need and desire to reach out in mercy and be that very tender extension of Our Lord’s hands and heart to those couples who silently suffer infertility and infant loss,” Leonard said.