EWTN - Getting the Word Out

by Erick Carrero
Vol 15, Nos 1-2
Winter/Spring 2004
Reproduced with Permission

I often tell people that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the pre-text for the context. Marital chastity is the context we are aiming for, but many will only get there through the practice of NFP. I believe that one reason why many couples are not familiar with "what'' NFP is, "why" use it, and "how" to use it, is that NFP is a foreign phrase in their lives. Therefore, it is always a good thing to find more and better ways to get the NFP message out to the public in many and varied ways.

Over a year ago while my family was driving home from a family trip, we stopped at EWTN headquarters in Irondale, A1. We'd never been there, and those who have been know how unique this visit can be. As we wandered around waiting for the next guided tour, a friendly gentleman came over to us and greeted us in Spanish after hearing my children speaking in Spanish in the reception area. This was Enrique Duprat, Director of Hispanic Productions for EWTN.

He gave us a personalized tour in Spanish, and as we talked more, we found we had many areas of common interest. What seemed to be a fortuitous encounter, turned out to be a clearly providential one. We discovered that Enrique also had a desire to educate people about NFP, and this is where the idea of a series of 13 NFP programs was born. I left Birmingham with Enrique's suggestion to send him a proposal for a series of programs on NFP.

In this effort to educate couples about the many aspects of marital sexuality, I contacted a group of likeminded friends to share the potenffal of this project. The idea was to gather to professionals from various fields and methods to present to viewers the fact that NFP is good, can make you grow as a person, and is part of the bigger context of marital chastity.

The planning and development stages required long hours of telephoning and e-mail networking. But in the end, I believe, it was worth it. Here are some things that we learned from producing our NFP series that will help us in future projects.

There are different ways to reach different people

Television challenged us with a diverse audience of educated and less educated viewers. Having a physician present information, for example, would be appealing to the more educated viewer, but intimidating or even boring to others. Relying on a witness talk was appealing to many couples, but others would find the lack of formality or scientific backing to be less believable. Although addressing the effectiveness of the method was crucial, some may see that as more of the contraceptive mentality we are trying to heal. In an effort to respond to these concerns, we presented a quilt of segments that were sewn together by a moderator to give an overview of the Culture of Life, in which marital chastity and NFP are an essential part.

Be creative with the budget. Those who work in the non-profit sector know of the challenges of funding "great ideas." As we got deeper into the planning of this series, we realized that it was going to cost more thar' what we thought. "Expect the unexpected" was true more than ever. Ye1 God's providence showed us thatthere were other people excited about this project who were willing to get involved, even at their own expense.

There were two witness couples scheduled to come to Alabama but their filming had to be cancelled due lack of funds. This happened after all of the segments had already been arranged. My wife, Sonia, suggested that we try to find a place in California (where our guests lived) to tape their witness. I contacted the Family Life Office of the Diocese of Fresno and they said they would be happy to lend us their studio. At the time, I didn't even ask what the cost was for using their crew. The next day, as we made further arrangements, the Family Life Director told me that he had contacted a pro-life friend who offered to pay for the crew's expense.

Learn the art of being subtly blunt

Due to the length of the series (13 programs), we were able to address many topics. Some dealt with human physiology, the joy of a couple coming off of the Pill, or how NFP helps you to give witness about chastity to your children. A pastor spoke about the changes of heart in his parishioners as more of them learned NFP. He explained how it encouraged them to be more involved in parish life and to participate more in the Sacraments. These and other issues were discussed to show the far-reaching extent of living the NFP lifestyle. But regardless of the subject, we made sure that all the participants shared that striving to live the truth that the Church proclaims about marriage and family gave them peace and joy. Viewers might not relate to certain theological jargon, but the truth about the human person is something they can relate to. We always emphasized that we owed them that, and that it is our treasure to share.

TV bridges a social gap

One of the bigger challenges we face today is how to make a convincing presentation to a population that we are less familiar with. While I have been an advocate of on-line courses and thorough training for NFP instructors since I started to work for Couple to Couple League in 1997, it is clear to me that many of those couples who have home computers are less likely to have children than those who do not have them but have a TV. I appreciate television and visual media in general because with the right script we are able to reach many social groups, including educated, unemployed, migrants, homemakers, etc.

The look is as important as the message

There is nothing more bland than a bad home video. Commercial TV sets the standard and, if we want any part on this media, that's what we should aim for. We were clear that we didn't want to make an NFP "infomercial," as that would ruin credibility. EWTN gave us an opportunity to use their facilities and excellent crew to produce top quality material. We are also working to develop more programs based on this series. Now that we have the professional footage, we can develop more programs to serve various needs.

This project truly was a two-way street

EWTN gave us a great opportunity to share our message with people around the globe. It also benefitted because EWTN ended up with a program that met their goals and objectives as an apostolate. This was also a commercial agreement. We need to be aware that there are other radio stations or TV stations that could use our talents, if the product we present is right for their audience.

Spiritual networking is vital

This project started with two people sharing their hope for a series of programs about NFP. It became a reality of whom are seen in the shows, others who prayed and offered sacrifices for its success. A healthy spiritual life will prevent us from working very hard on our own plans while ignoring those of God.

These are some reflections on a project that seemed to be a dream two years ago. We now are receiving emails from all of Europe, Central and South America and we realize this is a lot bigger than us. We also realize that we have a great responsibility as well. As we work harder to get the word out about NFP, we are obliged to work smarter and holierŅand to keep praying for the Lord's blessing.

The series is being transmitted by cable and you can also watch it on-line from EWTN web site www.ewtn.com. For programming information go to EWTN web site or to CCL's Spanish website www.planificacionfamiliar.net

Erick Carrero is the Director of Spanish Development for the Couple to Couple League. Erick travels extensively in the U.S. and Latin America promoting NFP and training NFP teachers. He is the author of a simplified NFP manual for less educated couples. Erick can be reached at ecarrero@ccli.org.