Please tell us about a model for promoting NFP in parishes that works.
A MODEL FOR PROMOTING NFP IN PARISHES THAT WORKS
Here is a model that works for promoting NFP in a diocese. Consider how it can be applied to your diocese.
Brian Murphy is a strong promoter of God’s plan for marriage and spousal love, as found in Gaudium et Spes and Humanae Vitae. Over the past ten years he and I have given many Humanae Vitae conferences for clergy in the southern California area. Only small groups of priests and deacons came (5-10), but this planted seeds of encouragement for preaching this message in dioceses where there is stiff resistance to Humanae Vitae. Brian recently organized a 9-day event in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA, which yielded remarkable results. Here is the plan.
We set up two consecutive NPF Parish Weekends in nearby parishes, and split my airfare between them. That covered my traveling expenses. I then resided in the rectories over the weekends. Once in the Diocese, I was then available for a variety of events between the weekends. Brian and I form a good team to promote these issues in a variety of ways.
On the weekend of 25-6 April 09, we worked at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Wilmington (Los Angeles Archdiocese) run by the Norbertine Fathers. About 4,000 families come to this parish, and there are eight Masses every weekend. I gave the homily at all the English Masses. Fr. Raymond Perez, O Praem, the pastor, gave a similar homily at all the Spanish Masses. The message was well received at all the Masses. A generous second collection was proof positive that a homily on God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family was greatly appreciated.
At each Mass we invited couples, with their children, to come to a room in the parish hall to hear a brief ten-minute presentation by Brian on the merits and values of NFP. Couples came after each Mass, especially after every Mass for the Hispanics. We gave away free CDs related to NFP, in both languages, to everyone who came. We also provided copies of Humanae Vitae in both English and Spanish. Brian composed a list of NFP teachers within a 10-mile radius, so that couples could easily contact them for taking the course. You are very tired after doing this at eight Masses, but it is a very satisfied weariness.
On Monday we offered a one-day clergy conference at the parish hall. The theme was “How to Preach God’s Plan for Marriage, Spousal Love and Family from the Pulpit.” Eight priests came, and gave us high marks of approval on the evaluation sheets (on a scale from 1-5, mostly 5s and 4s). We gave them many helpful resources, and assisted them in dealing with any doubts or hesitations that might interfere with their taking the initiative in preaching this message. These priests want to encourage other pastors to come to our next Humanae Vitae clergy conference.
I was a houseguest at Brian’s home during the week. On Wednesday night we went to a weekly prayer group in Brian’s neighborhood. I gave a short teaching on the difference between true and false freedom, and how this relates to the exercise of conscience. We exposed the error of the “primacy of conscience” because we do not determine what is right and what is wrong. As Cardinal Newman said, “Conscience is never a teacher; it is always a pupil.” This was a good preparation for Friday’s event.
On Thursday evening we went to St. Edward’s Parish in Dana Point, CA, to preach at the 5:30 PM daily Mass, and then offer a mini pro-life conference from 7pm to 9pm at the parish hall on the topic “The Truth About Being Pro-Life.” Fifty people came and received our message with enthusiasm. They know that we all must address the 50% divorce rate, 80% cohabitation rate, and an 85% contraception/sterilization rate among Catholics. Brian and I showed them their tools and offered our encouragment. Fr. Christopher Heath helped to make this event possible.
On Friday morning we drove to St. Joseph Communications to cut two radio shows. This group feeds material to EWTN’s radio ministry, which is then sent out to over 130 Catholic radio stations across the country. Our first radio show was an expansion upon the nature of human freedom, and the role of conscience. The “primacy of conscience” does not mean that we can decide for ourselves what the moral order is, and then make decisions with the confidence that we are right. Our second radio show was on twelve contrasts between NFP and contraception. We explained where contraception goes wrong, and why there is a world of difference between this and NFP.
The final event was the second NFP Parish Weekend at St. Boniface Church in Anaheim, CA. With over 8,000 families, this is one of the four largest parishes in the Orange County area. Here there are four distinct cultures: Anglo, Hispanic, Vietnamese and Filipino.
There are ten Masses each weekend: 1 in Vietnamese, 5 in English and 4 in Spanish. I preached at the English Masses, and Fr. Timothy Freyer, the pastor, preached a similar homily at the Spanish Masses. The Vietnamese were having a First Communion Mass that weekend, but their priest, Fr. Augustin Long Vu, will address these issues in the near future.
Many couples came to our short presentation after every Mass. The Hispanics showed the greatest interest: 30 to 70 people came after each Spanish Mass. We ran out of the Spanish CD, “Anticoncepcion, Porque No?” Forty couples signed their names to a list, and we will have more copies of this CD sent to the parish for them. It was obvious that the priests here have been preparing the soil for some time with this message. There must be other parishes in this area that are ready for the boost that our NFP Parish Weekends can provide for them.
One cannot help but notice the vitality among the Hispanics, Vietnamese and Filipinos. Their Masses are packed with large families, with men and women, boys and girls of every age. They want to hear God’s Plan for marriage, spousal love and family.
By contrast, the Anglo Masses are not so filled, and there are fewer children. When we invited individual couples after their Masses to come to the conference, we often were told: “Oh, I have already taken care of that.” Forty years of silence from the pulpits and massive dissent have taken their toll. May the new immigrants be able to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. It is clear where the future lies.
For further details on the organizing of this model, contact Brian Murphy at
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB