Celebrated annually for over 20 years, Natural Fertility Awareness Week recognises the work of two Melbourne doctors, Drs John and Evelyn Billings, and their commitment to helping women and couples throughout the world to understand their fertility.
Kerry Bourke, a parishioner at Camberwell, Balwyn and Deepdene Parish, is a Senior Accredited Teacher of the Billings Ovulation Method®. “In my early days in Melbourne, the Richmond Football Club doctor at the time recommended that I talk with Dr Lyn Billings to learn the latest advances in natural family planning.” Several years later, Kerry was approached by a Billings teacher she knew, to see if she was interested in being involved with a school program to talk with teenagers about their fertility and relationships. “I was impressed by the attitude and the evident faith of the group and encouraged by their support of our decision to use natural family planning. This was especially welcome when many people I knew, couldn’t understand why this was so important to us as a couple.” It was following her involvement with this team that Kerry went on to train as a teacher and she has now been teaching the Method to women for over 40 years and also training new teachers in Australia and overseas, including China, India, Indonesia and East Timor, Mexico and Malaysia.
In Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish, another Senior Teacher Kirsten Italiano first heard about the Method when preparing for marriage. The priest recommended a meeting with a natural family planning teacher and Kirsten recalls that “My interest was piqued because of my training in health science; women’s health being an area of interest for me whilst I had been studying. At our first meeting, we really felt welcomed and more importantly for me, the information made sense. I was one of the many women whose first comments when hearing about this is ‘Why haven’t I heard any of this before?’” Kirsten trained to become an accredited teacher and has been involved with teaching for over twenty years. “I appreciate the trust that couples place in me when discussing this area of their lives and it is a privilege to give them knowledge of their fertility that they can use to help make decisions for their families.”
Before moving to Melbourne from the Bunbury Diocese in WA, Kirsten presented natural family planning information sessions in schools, RCIA programs, marriage education classes, and to seminarians and clergy. “For many, the idea that fertility is a gift is not one that they generally hear about. I have found when presenting that people are particularly interested to hear about the science behind the Method and how a better understanding of fertility can help strengthen respect in relationships.”
This Year, the focus for Natural Fertility Awareness Week is on staying connected with the body’s natural signs of fertility and reproductive health. Worldwide, teachers of the Billings Ovulation Method® are already starting to see evidence of the impact that stress during the current pandemic may be having on women.
For several years now, Kerry has also been teaching women with Fertility Pinpoint™, an online charting system, and she is enthusiastic about the opportunity this provides to complement personalised teaching, particularly for busy women or those unable to easily access clinics. Despite Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions, teachers have been able to continue to stay connected with women and couples learning about their fertility and reproductive health. “The thrill of receiving a message from a couple who have finally conceived…and sometimes months later photos of the newborn baby in appreciation of the support I have been able to offer, is a real joy!” says Kerry. “The gratitude that women express, once they understand their bodies, and the empowerment it gives them in making decisions about their fertility is a continuing motivation for me to teach.”
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