When a couple gets married, they often look forward to having children together. For some couples that anticipation can evolve into disappointment and despair when they experience infertility.

To provide support for these couples, the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family will offer a St. Gerard Mass of Hope and Life for Couples Experiencing Infertility on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at St. Agatha-St. James Church in Philadelphia. Father James McGuinn, pastor of St. Agatha-St. James and director of the Newman Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will be the celebrant.

Steve Bozza, director of the Office for Life and Family, said this Mass will provide couples with the opportunity for prayer and comfort. “There will be an opportunity to meet other couples experiencing infertility,” Bozza said. “A lot of times, they feel very alone in this. The opportunity to mingle with other people who are going through the same thing is oftentimes very healing.”

In addition, a relic of St. Gerard — the patron saint of expectant mothers and women who want to become pregnant — will be available for veneration.
He noted that many Catholic couples are unaware of Church teachings on infertility and other medical options such as NaPro Technology that address the underlying cause of a woman’s infertility.

“Most of the time when a couple is having problems conceiving, they place their hope in the physician,” he said. “Ultimately, without a background in Catholic moral teachings, they’ll go with the recommendations of the physician who most likely doesn’t have their values.”

In addition to the Mass and social gathering afterward, Bozza said couples will be invited to participate in a 12-week workshop to provide them with information about Church teaching as well as addressing the emotional issues surrounding infertility.

The workshops will be held at the Penn Newman Center, which is adjacent to St. Agatha-St. James Church in University City at 3720 Chestnut St., on Wednesday evenings beginning Feb. 12.

Bozza hopes the Mass will offer couples the comfort and healing they need. “I want the couples to know the Church is here to support them and has not abandoned them,” he said.

For more information, contact Steve Bozza at 215-587-5661 or sbozza@archphila.org.

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For more information about Catholic teaching on infertility, natural family planning and NaPro Technology, visit the following websites:
http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/resources/infertility.cfm
http://www.catholicinfertility.org/guidelines.html
http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/
http://www.fertilitycarefriends.org/

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Elena Perri is a freelance writer in Havertown.