“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.”
In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote these words as the opening to Humanae Vitae, his highly-anticipated encyclical on the theological and philosophical importance of the human family. Almost 50 years later, the document is still widely read and influential, and has inspired much action within the Church.
“When Pope Paul VI issued it, it caused an uproar within and outside the Church,” said Claire Seelinger, who helped to organize a workshop based around the encyclical on Saturday, September 7. “Many were expecting a document that would do away with traditional teachings about marriage and the marital act. Instead, the Pope reiterated the constant teaching of the Church and revisited the theological and philosophical foundations for it.”
One group which today draws inspiration from the encyclical goes by the name of ENDOW, short for “Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women”. The group, which facilitates workshops, study groups, and seminars all around the United States, was called up by Seelinger.
“A few acquaintances of mine expressed interest in a class on Humanae Vitae, but I felt too intimidated to teach it myself,” she said. “When I called the folks in the ENDOW office in Denver, they suggested I gather a larger group than the typical small groups they form (usually only 8 to 12 women) and recommended that we work through it in a single day. It might just attract more attendees that way, they thought. They also found it successful to open the event up to married couples (men are not usually included in ENDOW classes) and so that’s what we did.”
The discussion for the day was led by a woman by the name of Terry Polakovic, the executive director for ENDOW. Participants began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Wall, and then took turns reading the encyclical and discussing their reactions, working from a study guide detailing the Church’s teaching on married life.
“We’re called to love in such a particular way – just as God loves,” Polakovic said during one discussion. “We are made in His image and likeness – we are bringing God into this world. We have to have a complete understanding of our relationship with God and likeness in Him.”
Nearby, a few tables were laid out with sample study materials for any women interested in starting an ENDOW event in their own parish. This is just what Seelinger eventually plans to do.
“Saturday’s seminar was held in one day – hence the name of the event, ENDOW in a Day – but the courses and study guides published by ENDOW are designed to be read in smaller groups and over the course of several months,” she said. “Usually, women meet once a week for about an hour and a half and read the original documents of the church alongside a study guide that helps enrich their reading. By learning together in a small group setting, everyone benefits from the combined life experiences within the group.”
The final message of the encyclical and the goals of ENDOW find common ground: both were created with the hope of illuminating God’s ultimate plans for mankind.
“The Catholic Church does not impose rules on people in order to make their lives more difficult,” said Seelinger. “Rather, the teachings on the sacredness of human life are rooted in the love of the Creator for each one of us and are not meant as a burden but rather a way to help us live more freely and fully as human persons…and although these teachings are difficult, there is nothing to fear when we remember that love is at the root.”
To find out more about ENDOW, or if you are interested in hosting a course in your parish, visit endowgroups.com.