By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
CEDAR RAPIDS — When Cassie Schetgen and her husband, Brandon, were asked earlier this year if they would consider appearing in a video promoting natural family planning (NFP), Cassie said she was surprised, but also very excited.
“We said ‘yes’ almost right away because NFP is a very important part of our marriage, and we believe it could be that for others, too,” she said. “If there was a way we could witness to the impact it’s had on our married life and possibly help others in theirs, then I wanted to take part in it!”
The 48-second video that the Schetgens, parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish in Dubuque, appear in is one in a series of short videos produced by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Office of Family Life and the archdiocesan Fertility Care Committee that looks at the “top 10 reasons to practice NFP.”
Cassie and Brandon star in the video for reason number nine – practicing natural family planning in today’s world is “counter-cultural.”
The top 10 videos are part of a larger effort by the archdiocese to create more awareness of what natural family planning is and the benefits it offers.
Natural family planning is an umbrella term describing a variety of methods that can be used to help achieve or avoid pregnancy based upon the naturally occurring signs of a woman’s cycle; NFP involves no artificial means.
“When Archbishop Jackels came here, he asked that we boost our efforts to promote natural family planning in the archdiocese,” said Linda Manternach, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Family Life.
Manternach’s office responded by forming a Fertility Care Committee to look at ways in which NFP might be promoted. Two archdiocesan priests – Fathers Jerry Kopacek and Mark Ressler – were invited to join the committee, as were a number of NFP providers who independently teach natural family planning in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
In January of this year, the committee created their top 10 reasons to use NFP. Intending to appeal to a variety of different audiences, the committee not only touted NFP’s compatibility with church teaching, but it also incorporated practical factors into the list such as NFP’s effectiveness and its affordability.
Manternach and the committee worked with communications staff at the archdiocese to create a poster and a brochure that would help them share the top 10 list they had created.
“We wanted to make these ideas available to the parishes, so we had materials designed,” Manternach said. “From there, it morphed into the idea of making a few videos. We knew we wanted the videos to be attractive and use local people, and we wanted them to be done professionally.”
They employed the help of OnMedia, a division of Mediacom Business, to help with video production. Dan Rouse, the creative services manager at OnMedia, served as the creative director for the project, which included the work of producers in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Cedar Falls and Dubuque.
“Video is vital to promote a company’s or organization’s message today, whether it’s on TV, social media, internet advertising or websites,” Rouse said. “I believe it was a wise move for Linda and the committee to recognize this fact in trying to reach Catholics who need to hear about NFP.”
In addition to the top 10 videos, Rouse and his team made eight others: three that describe specific types of NFP methods from people who teach them, three testimonials from couples around the archdiocese who practice NFP, as well as an introductory video and an overview video.
Rouse said he felt the people who appeared in the videos had valuable insights that others will find useful.
“Their stories will definitely connect with viewers,” he said. “Each of them was committed to living out their faith in every aspect of their lives, especially related to their sexuality. I appreciate them talking openly and honestly on video about such an intimate and personal topic.”
Rouse, who usually works with his team on videos for local businesses, said he felt blessed to have the opportunity to work on this faith-based project. Rouse is a member of St. Patrick Parish in Cedar Rapids and is in formation for the permanent diaconate.
“We prayed before each session (which is something I don’t usually get to do with other clients) for the people on camera and that their message would touch the lives of those who hear it,” Rouse said.
Nicole Gansen of OnMedia did the editing and the graphics for the videos and helped record several of them. Gansen said NFP was not something she knew a lot about prior to working on this project but said she learned a great deal in the process and was impressed by the couples that spoke about it.
“From what I’ve witnessed it’s easy to judge NFP as difficult and not worth the time … but hearing these couples talk about something so intimate in such an open and honest way was eye-opening,” Gansen said.
“Like anything else worth doing, whether getting into shape or learning a new skill, it takes time, patience and trust … trust in your spouse, trust in your intuition and ultimately trust in God,” she said. “I am blown away by the faith of the couples I met; it was inspiring.”
The videos that OnMedia produced can be viewed on the newly redesigned NFP page on the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s website: www.dbqarch.org/nfp.
This fall, the corresponding posters that promote the top 10 reasons to practice NFP were sent out to the parishes of the archdiocese, along with brochures for parish bulletins. The archdiocese is also promoting the top 10 videos via social media.
“The goal of the videos and all our efforts is to promote the goodness of NFP. I hope we are able to raise awareness and help people understand the options it presents,” Manternach said.
Nannet Horton, a member of the Fertility Care Committee who appears in one of the videos, has similar hopes.
A member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, Horton has been an instructor of the Family of the Americas Ovulation Method of natural family planning for three years and with her husband, Bob, has led Pre-Cana classes for four.
Horton said a lot of the young couples she works with are completely unfamiliar with natural family planning when she first meets them.
“Many indicate that they are unaware of NFP and have never heard of it before,” Horton said. “They are very curious about it, and after an introductory session, many are deeply amazed at how the woman’s fertility works and how easy it is to learn the method.”
Horton would like to see more couples look into natural family planning following the archdiocese’s promotional efforts and hopes those who watch the videos take from them at least three things: that NFP methods are informed by science, that the knowledge of a woman’s cycle can equip a couple to confidentially try to achieve or avoid pregnancy, and that learning NFP methods are easier than one might think and that there are teachers in the archdiocese available to guide couples in NFP practice.
The video project with the archdiocese is one that Horton has been excited to be a part of since, ultimately, “NFP is not just about birth regulation,” she said, “but it is an integral part of strengthening the marriage bond of husbands and wives,” and that is something Horton said she feels privileged to be able to help promote.