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Women to women on NFP
A ladies night out focuses on a holistic approach to natural family planning.
Katie Bahr | Catholic Herald
Katie Bahr | Catholic Herald
Mary Kate Sparrow, a wife and mother of four, speaks about her experiences with natural family planning during an event for young adult women at the Crystal City Sports Pub in Arlington Monday night.

It may be March Madness, but it wasn’t basketball the women on the third floor of Crystal City Sports Pub were discussing Monday night. Instead, thanks to an event organized by the young adult ministry offices of the Arlington Diocese and the Archdiocese of Washington, approximately 130 women gathered for a night of casual discussion on natural family planning (NFP).

According to Erin Kisley, director of Arlington’s young adult ministry, the night was intended to give Catholic women the information they need to speak out about NFP or practice it in their own lives.

“This is important especially right now with the HHS mandate,” Kisley said. “We’re supposed to speak out about our faith, but how can we speak out if we don’t know it?”

The event was intended to give a holistic approach to NFP and featured two speakers: Dr. Lorna Cvetkovitch, a physician at the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, and Mary Kate Sparrow, a wife and mother of four who regularly presents to engaged couples.

For her presentation, Cvetkovitch gave a medical perspective on NFP, including the various methods women can use and the reasons why they are effective. She also spoke about ovarian cysts, endometriosis and other common health problems that can be diagnosed more easily when a woman charts her fertility cycle.

Cvetkovitch, who has worked at Tepeyac since 2008 and serves as a board member for both the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, believes NFP is “the best kept secret in reproductive health.” She also considers the practice to be the only truly feminist form of family planning.

“It gives women and couples knowledge and true control over their reproductive capacity and fosters respect for women’s nature,” she said.

During her presentation, Sparrow spoke about her experiences using NFP, which she called “a blessing, a form of suffering, a joy and a challenge all together.”

Sparrow believes practicing NFP is the last hurdle many practicing Catholics feel they must face while living their faiths.

“Obedience is going all the way, which can be much more difficult when it forces you to relinquish control of something so easily controllable in this time and age — your fertility,” she said.

For her, NFP has resulted in a greater awareness of her body’s signs and signals and increased communication with her husband. While she admits NFP is not always easy, it has been effective for her and she believes it to be a sign of obedience and trust.

“Some months I love it, some are more difficult, but every month, I recognize its value,” Sparrow said.

Kisley hopes this event will be the first in a series of quarterly ladies night out events for the diocesan young adult ministry. Registration for Monday’s event filled weeks in advance, so she is confident a series would be popular.

Daniela Petchik, who is a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said she attended Monday’s event because she was curious about the science behind NFP.

“There’s not a lot of information about natural family planning,” she said. “A lot of people think of it as a form of Catholic birth control, but really the science behind it can teach you a lot about yourself.”

Stephanie Hayes, who teaches at St. Ann School in Arlington, said the event was an opportunity to learn more about NFP, which she has always been curious about, and to spend time with other Catholic women. As a single woman, she appreciates the opportunity to meet with other like-minded people for social and spiritual support.

“This definitely helps build that support network,” she said.

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