These are just some of the ways that the parish can be a resource to couples experiencing infertility.
• Raise the issue of infertility at the pre-Cana marriage preparation meetings. It would alert couples to the reality that conceiving a baby isn’t always easy, while providing an opportunity to walk through the do’s and don’ts of church teaching.
• Establish a diocesan network of support for infertile couples, regardless of what treatment choices they have made or are considering.
• Develop a ministry to help couples with adoptions as an alternative to technologically assisted births.
• Emphasize the value of married couples who have no children. “To have parenthood so highly esteemed, almost to the point of idolatry in some situations, without balancing that out with an awareness that many couples long for [children] and have no control over that desire can be very hard,” says Jennifer Saake, a founder of Hannah’s Prayer Ministry, a support network.
• Establish an annual Mass such as those held in St. Louis, Detroit, and other dioceses, to recognize the sufferings that infertile couples are enduring.
• Recognize that couples don’t opt for IVF lightly. It’s a grueling and expensive process, generally costing $10,000 per cycle. Permit open, public discussion of all the issues—ranging from the IVF process itself to the treatment of embryos and the use of donor sperm and eggs—as opposed to simply laying down the law. “It’s disingenuous for the church not to enter into dialogue about this,” says Father Theodore Valo (a pseudonym) in northern California.
This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 10, page 36).
Image: Erin Drewitz