By NADIA MARIA SMITH
CS&T Staff Writer
Fourteen years and three daughters into their marriage, Michael and Lisann Castagno, members of Visitation B.V.M. Parish in Trooper, are very much in love. And they help prepare prospective couples to find the same sustaining love and intimacy.
The Castagnos have been archdiocesan Natural Family Planning instructors for the past 13 years and have assisted with the NFP component of the archdiocesan Pre-Cana program for the past nine years. They think this component is so important to a successful marriage, Michael said, that they make time to teach it – despite full time jobs and a busy home life with daughters ages 11, 8 and 6.
They met as youth ministry volunteers at their former parish of St. John of the Cross in Willow Grove. Despite a 10-year age difference they began dating.
“What really drew me to him was how much he knew about our faith and how much he craved to learn,” Lisann Castagno said. “I was drawn to the fact that he was going to class and teaching CCD. He was teaching me so much.”
At the time Lisann had just ended a three-year relationship because she realized the person she was dating was not someone she would marry, she said.
“I was 21 years old, so I wasn’t looking to get married right away, but I knew I wanted to in the future,” she said.
A short time after her breakup, she was assigned as Michael’s co-pilot on a parish youth group skiing trip where the couple got to learn more about each other. It ended with him asking her out to dinner. She accepted.
“Within a month I knew that he was the one I was going to marry. A year to the day of our first date we got engaged and were married a year and a half later,” she said.
Lisann believed that sex was sacred and belonged in marriage, but had not found a man who shared that belief until she met Michael. Likewise, Michael hadn’t met a woman with that belief until he met her.
“Michael had his own house and didn’t want me to come over because it was too much of a temptation,” she recalled.
His prudence and the respect he showed her and her parents revealed his character and made her fall for him even more, she said.
From the beginning faith was central to the couple, and once married, natural family planning would be too.
The couple learned the Sympto-Thermal method of natural family planning in their marriage preparation class and have practiced it throughout their marriage. They believe it has had an incredible impact on their relationship.
“It makes a difference because in our hearts We know that we are living our marriage the way God designed and intended it to be lived – with the openness to life and all it brings,” Michael said. “The challenge of NFP is to pray for the wisdom to discern what God wants for you and your family and the courage to enact it. It’s a constant dialoguing about where we are in our lives and our marriage, our existing children and putting the entire family planning aspect of our marriage front and center.”
Lisann agrees that it has given them the freedom to communicate about everything – the good, the bad and the ugly, she said. It has also helped them to more deeply respect each other and their fertility.
“He has so much respect for me. It comes through in so many ways because he charts and cares to know about my body and to know the faith and what God teaches,” she said.
The Castagnos have noticed that more people know about natural family planning now than when they first started out, which is a good thing, Michael said. And they hope to increase those numbers and strengthen marriages with each couple they teach.
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 965-4614.