Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Beauty and Hope of Natural Procreative Technology

by Katie Sciba

Tom and Katie Aranda have an adventurous love story. After meeting overseas, they enjoyed a friendship and began dating while stationed hundreds of miles apart with the Air Force. A wedding and months of long-distance marriage finally saw them together in Shreveport. Like many newlyweds, the Arandas had hopes of having a family together, and they looked forward to expecting many children; but, with the exception of Katie’s pregnancy with their daughter Genevieve, they endured miscarriage after miscarriage, all of which were explained as “bad luck.”

Matt and Mikki Sciba fell in love in college and married soon after graduating. They moved to the area in pursuit of small business and establishing roots with local family. Like the Arandas, the Scibas were eager to welcome children, but in nine years of trying, children never came. After taking extensive efforts with doctors, the Scibas were told their infertility was unexplained and unless they used in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or artificial insemination, they had little to no chance of conceiving.

By God’s grace, both couples were able to add to their families – each being twice blessed by adoption. Still, they knew something wasn’t right physiologically, and both hoped to achieve healthy pregnancies.

“Nobody ever thinks they’ll have issues having children,” Katie Aranda told me. “[The miscarriages] were all hard, but the fourth one really brought us down.” Prior to this, Tom and Katie had taken as thorough an approach as possible to their struggles, being tested for chromosome problems and immune deficiencies – any and all factors not conducive to carrying to term. The results came back normal.

It was the same with the Scibas; Matt and Mikki went through testing as well – the results of which pointed to no conclusion at all. “You should be fertile,” they were told. “We don’t know why you’re not.”

This is the story of hopes fulfilled and prayers answered, and God working through a science called Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro), which the Arandas and the Scibas both sought amid feelings of helplessness.

Because of its versatile nature, there are variety of understandings as to what NaPro is and does, but the simplest definition states that NaPro Technology is a reproductive health science that works cooperatively with the procreative and gynecological systems. Those who have felt defeated by infertility, repeated miscarriages and other abnormalities can lift their heads in hope.

Danielle Van Haute is the Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge and was first introduced to NaPro in the late 90s as a student at Franciscan University. After years of study, she became a practitioner in 2011. “NaPro is good medicine. Its patients are optimistic because they have full knowledge of their own personal health,” Van Haute said, a less than common trait among women struggling with reproductive illness. Infertility and repeated miscarriages, among other issues, are too often regarded as diagnoses and treated with birth control, or the couple is advised to use IVF. When it seems all avenues have been taken, a woman or couple may be given the conclusion that their problems are “unexplained” and therefore not treatable. What NaPro considers is that these health problems are not diagnoses, but symptoms pointing to underlying issues.

“What we do with NaPro,” Van Haute began, “is try to figure out the root cause of whatever the problem is – miscarriage, infertility, PMS, ovarian cysts. There’s a physiological reason for everything.” These problems are tragedies wrapped in mystery for many women, who may feel hopeless facing them over and over again. Van Haute continued, “In order to do justice to the woman, she deserves a thorough workup, complete hormone profile, and diagnosis because when we treat the problem, our hope is that with the proper physiology, she will have fertility. That’s what our reproductive systems are supposed to have, it’s what they’re ordered to. Our primary goal is restoring natural, healthy physiology.”

So what does a “workup” look like? Through charting the biomarkers of her cycle, a woman will be able to ascertain hormonal behaviors and with the help of a NaPro practitioner, interpret them to understand her own physiology. This is all done through practicing the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, also known as the Creighton Method of Natural Family Planning. The characteristics and timing of these biomarkers speak loud and clear; charting them, Van Haute confirmed, reveals exactly what the body is trying to say. “It’s just another form of body language.” After just a short time of charting and getting a hormone profile, it’s likely that a FertilityCare practitioner or NaPro doctor will have strong insight into what ground-level health problem exists, how to test for it, and how to treat it. Receiving treatment might mean taking bioidentical hormones (over synthetic ones) and undergoing surgery with a specialized NaPro surgeon to restore the natural order of a woman’s reproductive health.

The inherently natural approach in NaPro Technology is integral both to its appeal and success. It is 100% pro-woman, pro-marriage and pro-baby. By practicing and charting with the Creighton Method, a woman is empowered with in-depth knowledge of her own body and physiological behaviors. Where birth control would mask and alter the biomarkers needed to understand base problems, Creighton and NaPro together use the indicators already in place. The purpose is to correct disorder and restore health. Few women know that they already possess within themselves the information needed to heal.

“My favorite part of meeting with our practitioner had to be covering what she called the S.P.I.C.E. of our marriage,” Mikki laughed.  “She asked us how we were doing Spiritually, Physically, Intellectually, Communicatively and Emotionally with each other. It was great because we knew they were looking at the whole picture of our relationship, not just the physical objective of making a baby.” These meetings involve both husband and wife rather than the wife alone, underscoring the union of the couple’s sacrament.

And Catholics struggling with reproductive abnormalities can set their minds at ease knowing that there is nothing within NaPro Technology that goes against Church teaching, particularly teaching on the marital act. Intercourse itself is designed to be simultaneously procreative and unitive; unlike artificial birth control which short circuits the procreative aspect, or IVF which does not physically unite husband and wife and involves the discard of less healthy human embryos. The Creighton Method and NaPro maintain full regard for every person in a family. Even in cases when a husband is infertile, NaPro uses sexually moral methods of collecting data for analysis and treatment that, according to Van Haute, have proven to be very thorough and effective. In this area of medicine, the procreative and unitive aspects of marital union are preserved and encouraged for both husband and wife, regardless of who exhibits signs of infertility.

It was NaPro’s moral accessibility that was enticing for the Scibas. “Why did you want to pursue conception this way?” I asked Mikki. Gracefully and without hesitation she replied, “Because it doesn’t go against Catholic teaching, yet simultaneously provides a means to conception.” Because this science acts naturally and within Catholic bioethics, conception for the infertile is possible without compromise.

The process might seem dizzying at first – charting, seeking the aid of NaPro practitioners, keeping Catholic sexual ethics, treatments, surgery and daring to hope for a baby, what are the odds that conception will happen for a couple declared infertile?

“A baby is always a hope and desire,” Van Haute told me. “For couples previously declared infertile, [meaning they’ve gone 8-12 months without conceiving], between 20 and 40 percent will achieve pregnancy with the Creighton Method. Once we talk about adding NaPro Technology [to attend to any health problems they have], up to 80 percent will conceive.” She added that the large range of success exists because conception will vary greatly depending on the underlying causes of infertility. In general, NaPro is nearly three times more effective than IVF; and men and women are able to get thorough diagnoses and treatment to be able to conceive.

In the cases of both these families, treatment involved exploratory surgeries for Katie and Mikki, during which surgeons fixed varying issues to enable healthy, term pregnancies. Katie’s expression relaxed recalling her post-op meeting with her NaPro OB, Dr. Kathryn Karges of Caritas Complete Women’s Care. “We told her all our miscarriages had been unexplained and she just said to me, ‘We explain the unexplained. That’s our mission.’” It was the first time the Arandas had solid hope.

Both the Arandas and Scibas had every reason in the world to hope. Now healthy through charting and treatments, both conceived and delivered tiny miracles to their families. Considering the tumult their families endured waiting for things to go right, I asked them, “At what point did you say to yourself, ‘Oh my goodness, it worked!’?” Again Mikki was quick to respond, “When I held him!” smiling down at her newborn son, Samuel. “After nine years of infertility, it was hard to hope, even during pregnancy. So it really sank in when we finally saw him and got to hold him.”

Katie was calm and confident from the early stages of her pregnancy with their new blessing, Luke. “I was so much more hopeful from the beginning. I just felt like they were taking care of me, watching my [hormone] levels. I felt safe. I was finally able to enjoy being pregnant without any fear.” The care she spoke of was yet another blessing of NaPro – specialists and FertilityCare practitioners are there every step of the way to ensure the optimal environment while the baby is in-utero. NaPro practitioners strive to prevent pre-term delivery and keep the baby safe and healthy through birth.

In north Louisiana, there isn’t a NaPro OB/GYN or FamilyCare practitioner within a three-hour road trip, but that’s no problem. Because the need is more widespread than the actual facilities, many NaPro patients have Skype consultations with their practitioners to cover questions about charting and how to proceed with treatment. The prevalence of these remote meetings is high, which renders treatment and hope all the more accessible. It’s important to note, too, that NaPro Technology handles more than infertility and miscarriage – any and all women’s health issues are addressed within its science, giving healing and peace to unmarried women as well as married who have painful cycles, hormonal problems, cysts and other illnesses.

A highly successful health science that’s pro-woman, marriage and baby, with a mission to explain the unexplainable is here; an approach that looks at a full range of reproductive abnormalities not as problems on their own, but as indicators of underlying issues.  “This isn’t just Catholic medicine,” Danielle Van Haute told me. “It’s just good medicine.” •

Archbishop Kurtz Calls for Welcoming of Refugees Fleeing Syria

by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Catholics in the United States, as well as all people of good will, should express openness and welcome to refugees fleeing Syria and elsewhere in order to survive, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement, September 10. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, KY, issued the call on the heels of Pope Francis’ appeal, September 6, that every Catholic parish in Europe house a refugee family:

In recent days, we have seen reports about and pictures of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, primarily Syrians fleeing the conflict in their nation, fleeing into Europe in search of protection. These images have captured the world’s attention and sympathy. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked Catholics in Europe to respond to the needs of the refugees streaming into Europe and, throughout his papacy, has consistently called upon the world to protect refugees and other persons on the move.

As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I urge all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons –made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.

I express my solidarity with the Holy Father, the bishops of Syria, the Middle East, and Europe, and all people who have responded to this humanitarian crisis with charity and compassion. I also encourage the U.S. government to assist more robustly the nations of Europe and the Middle East in protecting and supporting these refugees and in helping to end this horrific conflict, so refugees may return home in safety. The Catholic Church in the United States – with nearly 100 Catholic Charities agencies and hundreds of parishes assisting refugees to this country each year, and with Catholic Relief Services providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe – stands ready to help in this effort.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, Mary and Joseph flee the terror of Herod. They are the archetype of every refugee family. Let us pray that the Holy Family watches over the thousands of refugee families in Europe and beyond at this time.

USCCB Releases ‘USA Catholic Church’ Mobile App

by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States has introduced its first mobile app: USA Catholic Church. . . . Designed to draw Catholics closer to their faith by providing access to Church information on all screens and devices, this is the only app that brings together information from all Catholic sources: parishes, dioceses, the U.S. bishops and even the Vatican. The app includes religious news, daily Scripture readings and local parish content.

“This is the most comprehensive virtual connection to the Catholic faith available,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne, chair-elect of the Committee on Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which created the app. “We understand many people are looking for more ways to connect with the Church and incorporate Catholic living into their busy lives—that’s exactly what this app is designed to do.”

App content is available in both English and Spanish and lets users:

•  Follow Pope Francis with the latest news and communications, including videos and photos.

•  Access unique mobile features: view daily readings, make mobile donations, receive news alerts, get Vatican and Catholic News Service updates, and have the ability to share via social media.

In October, new parish and diocese functionality will be released, allowing users to stay in contact with local dioceses and parishes through individual pages with Mass and confession times, homilies, events, blog posts, videos and bulletins, and locate local parishes at home or when traveling with a “Church Finder” tool that works by location, city, state or ZIP code.
The USA Catholic Church app is free to download at Google Play and Apple iTunes in English and Spanish. To download, visit . . from your smartphone or tablet device.

St. Vincent de Paul Banquet Great Success

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (Western District) held their first annual fundraiser on Thursday, September 10, and it was a resounding success. The event held at Loyola College Prep was sold-out with over 310 people in attendance. After covering expenses, all contributions received through the banquet will go to assist the poor and those in need right here in the Shreveport/Bossier City area. Ralph Middlecamp, keynote speaker, gave a thought-provoking presentation highlighting the connection between Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and the work of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Fr. Peter Mangum served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies. Bishop Duca wrapped up the evening with a strong call to those in attendance, and Catholics throughout the diocese, to consider joining the Society.
- Brian Burgess

Knights of Columbus Honor Veterans

At a Saturday luncheon held at the Louisiana Downs Sky Room overlooking the racetrack the area Knights of Columbus honored some special war veterans of the United States of America. The Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home has some of the finest people who gave so much so that we can have the great opportunities the United States offers today.  This was just a way of saying THANK YOU to these special people.

Olan Wise is one of the eldest of the facility at age 97 and he told me that he was pushing another year. All of these veterans are very active, but they enjoy playing and most of the time winning in the game of “Bean Bag Baseball.”  In fact, despite being legally blind, Mr. Wise hit a home run against the Knights a week ago. These five residents of the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home represent  454 years of life.

The Knights also brought along one of their own special veterans who was active during World War II, Brother Lenard Micinski, 91, who served this Nation as a member of the U.S. Army.

He also joined the oldest Council of the Knights in Shreveport known as the #1108 now serving St. Pius X Church.

Approximately 150 Knights and Ladies came to honor them and shared excellent food and fellowship. They enjoyed the horse races, old friendships and one very special afternoon. A very special thanks to Louisiana Downs for their great efforts to make this event something very noteworthy to all attending.

Pictured standing are (left to right) Ms. Frankie Canty, Activity Director of the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home, Ben Davidson, past State Deputy, Louisiana Knights of Columbus, Ms. Ann Kilgore, Air Force Korean War Veteran, and seated are four World War II Veterans, Mr. Ethan Gillispie – US Army, Mr. Jackson Thrash – U.S. Air Force, Mr. Bludie J. Langley – U.S. Navy, and Olan Wise – U.S.  Air Force.

– David Bodden

Students Serve at Monroe Red Mass

Students of varying ages from all of the Catholic Schools in the Eastern Deanery assisted in the 22nd Annual Red Mass at St. Matthew Parish on September 11. Students assisting were: Jared Faulkimage, Brad Bourgeois, John Ellender, Will Ellender, Matthew Lokey, Rosemary Manning, Paul Pham, Grace Tannehill, Gunter Tannehill, Jack Wier and Stephen Bourgeois.

- Wendell Manning

St. Paschal Family Catechesis

Parents and students at St. Paschal Parish in West Monroe attended a special catechetical event ‘Following in the Footsteps of Jesus.’ The event, designed to grow the family faith experience, was well attended and enjoyed very much. Developed for parents and students pre-school though eighth grade, the event is the first of a series of three.

  – Cathy Nolan

Medical Students’ Hands Blessed

Led by Msgr. Earl Provenza from Holy Trinity Parish, the LSU Health Shreveport Catholic Medical Student Association (CMSA) held its annual anointing of the hands August 24. According to CMSA faculty advisor Dr. Diana Bienvenu, “the ceremony reminds us that Christ uses our hands to minister to His people here on earth. In many cultures and over many centuries, oil has been used to symbolize strength; to be anointed with oil has come to symbolize that we are strengthened to do the work we are called to do. To be anointed with oil is to be reminded of our dignity, the dignity of those we serve, and the dignity of the work we do.”                   – Meg Willet

Cascio Honored for RCIA Service

Rosina Cascio was honored by St. Joseph Parish for her 30+ years of dedication to the RCIA Team, the RCIA candidates/catechumens and the church staff. Presented to Ms. Rosina was a beautiful statue of St. Joseph and the Christ child which was blessed by Fr. Mark Franklin, pastor of St. Joseph Parish.
 - Jennie Murphy

St. Jude Presents Service Awards

Marcie Harold and Tom Koch received this year’s St Jude’s Servus Servorum Award. Also pictured are past recipients, Patsy Remedies, Tom and Patty Guanella and Mary Ellen Brien.
- Theresa Billau