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  • Mary Shivanandan

Whatever Happened to Marriage?

Updated: Jan 18, 2019


A former student got married in early January. Before the wedding, I searched the aisles of my all-purpose grocery store for a wedding card. All manner of cards are displayed, birthday cards for all ages and relationships, seasonal holiday cards such as Christmas and Hannukkah, special event cards wishing good health or friendship. Imagine my surprise when, among this profusion, I could not find a wedding card, although there were plenty of anniversary cards.

It was almost the same at a local drug store, although I did find one beautiful card, which I promptly snapped up. Is the dearth because few people marry in the winter months or because few young people now marry period? Certainly, with the advent of the contraceptive pill, many couples choose to live together rather than marry. It seems that the connection between sex and procreation has been lost.

At this time of year when there is a pro-life March to counter the passage by the Supreme Court in 1973 of the constitutional right to an abortion, (largely as a back-up to contraceptive failure) it seems to me important to honor a couple’s fertility and power to create life. (The Church is not against limiting the number of children but is concerned about the method of doing so.) One of our links is The Billings Ovulation Method Association-USA (BOMA-USA), which promotes the Billings Ovulation Method® of fertility monitoring. This method gives a couple a natural way both to achieve and avoid pregnancy. As the web site says, it is based on over 50 years of scientific research and its effectiveness has been published in numerous medical journals. BOMA is the U.S. affiliate of WOOMB, the World Organization of the Ovulation Method, Billings, founded in the late 1950's by Drs. John and Lynn Billings. A recent Vimeo, called The Sexual Revolution, details not only the fall-out of the hormonal contraceptive pill, which ushered in the sexual revolution in the 1960's but also the story of Drs. John and Lynn Billings.



Dr. Billings, a practicing neurologist, promised to help his pastor, Father Maurice Catarinich, in Melbourne Australia, who was seeking an alternative acceptable to the Church, for just three months. Father Catarinich came from a family of physicians so he had special interest in the science behind natural family planning. Looking for a marker for fertility, he asked women to describe changes they experienced in the fertility cycle. Eventually, after teaching him the changes in cervical mucus they experienced, he systematized their observations into the Ovulation Method. At the insistence of the World Health Organization, the method was eventually called “The Billings Ovulation Method®” and has since been trademarked for protection in countries such as the United States. His involvement of three months led him to a 40-year commitment and worldwide travel promoting the Billings Ovulation Method.


Dr. John Billings came several times to the United States in the 1970's. There is a somewhat checkered history of the spread of the Billings Ovulation Method in the USA, involving Mercedes Wilson and Fr. Dugan, Director of Health and Hospitals for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He, in fact, published the first book on the ovulation method in the U.S. Eventually BOMA-USA was formed as an affiliate of WOOMB. Sue Ek, executive director of BOMA-USA, told me a little about its history in St Cloud, MN, showing the link between the Church, committed to Humanae vitae, and the medical profession. Dr. John Billings was a featured speaker at a conference at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, when the Bishop George Speltz of St. Cloud, MN was in the audience. Right then and there he decided to bring The Billings Method™ to his diocese. With the help of his family life director, he recruited Kay Ek, a volunteer in marriage preparation, and Mary Hughes, to attend the first-ever Teacher Training held in the United States. Kay Ek became the founding director of the Office of Natural Family Planning for the St. Cloud Diocese. At one point, The Billings Method™ was taught in 10 hospitals in the 16-county diocese. Eventually, in 1996, Ek became president of BOMA-USA, replacing Dr. Hanna Klaus OB-Gyn. She is succeeded by her daughter, Sue as the executive director.


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