Alumna begins meetings to promote authentic women’s healthcare
A new women’s fertility awareness club on campus strives to educate women on the gift of God’s feminine design. Michelle Bennett, the founder of the group, received her Masters in Biological Sciences from Notre Dame in 2022 with research focusing on maternal and fetal health. A mother of one daughter with another child on the way, Bennett felt a desire to start a group dedicated to educating women on their natural biology “with a sound philosophical background.”
Bennett was trained as a fertility educator through Natural Womanhood—a program dedicated to women’s health literacy—this summer and began leading a group of 10–15 girls through Natural Womanhood’s Cycle Mindfulness Curriculum this August.
Natural Womanhood is a national secular organization founded in 2012 on the principles of natural law and theology of the body. They strive to educate women about their bodies and teach that “fertility is not a disease in need of a cure but a pivotal aspect of comprehensive women’s health.”
Cycle Mindfulness Clubs (CMC) provide peer-led support and education “where young women can gather to learn about and discuss personal questions about their fertility and cycle health,” approaching “fertility as a gift, and as a positive and integral part of what it means to be human.”
“These aims of our club align with principles of natural law and theology of the body, which promote the distinct gifts of women and their personal dignity,” Bennett told the Rover.
Pope St. John Paul II began his series of 129 lectures on the ‘Theology of the Body’ in 1979, following up on Pope Paul VI’s groundbreaking encyclical, Humanae Vitae. This document addressed the objectives of the sexual revolution and called on Catholics to remain faithful to God’s design of marriage, sex, and family life.
In the encyclical, Pope Paul VI urged the scientific community to develop a safe, moral, and holistic alternative to the birth control pill. He hoped that Catholic scientists may, “by their research, establish the truth of the Church’s claim that ‘there can be no contradiction between two divine laws—that which governs the transmitting of life and that which governs the fostering of married love.’”
In 1985, the Saint Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction was founded with these goals in mind. Research through the Saint Paul VI Institute has contributed to immense improvements in natural fertility regulation, reproductive education, and genuine life-affirming care for women, children, and families. South Bend’s Saint Joseph Hospital bears the fruit of this call through its FertilityCare Center.
Other organizations that uphold these principles of human dignity and natural fertility have been gaining momentum among both Catholic and secular scientists alike. CMCs provide college women with the education and support they need to take control of their health and fertility despite a healthcare system that fails them. Bennett agrees that the “general societal consensus is that natural cycles and fertility are a burden.” She says “it is this falsehood that [CMC is] confronting. Women’s healthcare is severely lacking in general medicine, and we want to empower women through charting to read the signs of health that their body is communicating in order to get the help that they need to live happily and healthfully.”
The weekly curriculum will cover topics such as charting, hormones and emotion cycle syncing, common cycle problems, ovulation, anatomy, common treatments and medications, sexual desire through the cycle, and good cycle health practices.
Adeline Kershner, a Notre Dame sophomore and the group’s co-leader, welcomes this community as a place to provide material that is otherwise lacking in women’s reproductive education. “There is a common gap in our previous education when it came to learning about how our bodies work. Naturally, as we enter young adulthood, we want to address these gaps in our knowledge. This group provides Notre Dame women the opportunity to learn essential facts about our bodies that will help us lead healthier and happier lives,” she said.
Senior Claudia Parisi praised the holistic approach that the group provides, especially because of the lack of information women are given on the reality of their cycles and fertility. She told the Rover, “Society doesn’t teach girls that understanding their cycles provides insights about how to live the healthiest life at that moment.”
Parisi added, “There’s an assumption that these methods are only used by Catholics once they are married and looking to have kids … [but] tracking also provides essential knowledge that women can use to live healthy lives beyond starting a family. … Understanding this allows women to be better equipped in living out their femininity in a whole and healthy way.”
A devout Catholic, Bennett says this group provides a “practical application of the Catholic Church’s teaching on women’s dignity and an active participation in the promotion of the feminine genius through our appreciation of our feminine embodiment.”
The group will meet every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Hesburgh Library. Women interested in learning more can reach out to Michelle Bennett, FEMM Fertility Educator, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merlot Fogarty is a senior studying theology, political science, and constitutional studies. She is proud to boast three copies of Humanae Vitae and would love to talk about Pope Paul VI’s hot takes with you; email her email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Life Monument, Franciscan Media
Subscribe to the Irish Rover here.
Donate to the Irish Rover here.