June 14, 2013

Latino pharmacist brings faith and science together in NFP ministry

Jose Ocampo gives a presentation on the Creighton Model of natural family planning on Jan. 19 at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Jose Ocampo gives a presentation on the Creighton Model of natural family planning on Jan. 19 at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When Jose Ocampo immigrated to the United States in 2002, he sought a good education and prosperous way of life for him and his family.

“It was the American dream way of thinking,” said Ocampo, 46, a native of Costa Rica and a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis.

But in the decade since then, Ocampo and his family have instead found spiritual riches.

Trained as a pharmacist in Costa Rica, Argentina and Canada, Ocampo initially thought that he would work in that field in Indianapolis. But a deepening of his life of faith, plus his learning about the Creighton Model of natural family planning, led him to bring together his professional expertise with his desire to bring others closer to Christ and the Church.

Although highly trained in pharmacology, Ocampo said that his schooling taught him little about natural family planning.

“I was a professional and I could tell you anything about contraceptives,” he said. “But I didn’t have a clue about natural family planning methods.”

Like other natural family planning methods, the Creighton Model involves daily observations of the signs of fertility that a woman’s body produces cyclically. It can also help couples learn the root causes of infertility, and thus serve as the basis of a possible correction of that condition.

The Creighton Model was developed largely through decades of research by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, the founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb., where his research continues and where people like Ocampo are trained to teach the Creighton Model and treat patients dealing with infertility.

As his faith deepened after moving to Indianapolis, Ocampo came to the conclusion that he personally could no longer work as a traditional pharmacist since that would involve dispensing various forms of contraceptives to customers.

Turning his back on his profession at a time when he and his wife, Annie, had three children to raise was challenging.

“Sometimes, as a human being, I wake up in the morning and I think to myself, ‘Jose, what are you doing? Just go back to the pharmacy field. Just do what you are trained to do. Make a decent salary. Take care of your family. Live a happy life,’ ” Ocampo said. “And then I hear this voice telling me, ‘Jose, do you trust me?’ I feel like God is asking me [this].”

Over the years, Ocampo had to work outside his profession, teaching Spanish for a period, working as a custodian for another.

Through it all, he desired to bring his expertise and knowledge together with his faith, but he did not know how this would happen. All he knew was that he had to have faith.

“The most difficult part in all of this has been learning to trust God every day—not just for a few hours, not just for a few minutes, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Ocampo said. “Every day, I trust that he’s in charge. He knows what he is doing, even though sometimes I get frustrated and confused.”

Then, about a year ago, Jose and Annie were being trained at Holy Rosary to becoming facilitators in the “One in Christ” marriage preparation program. At that time, he learned about the Creighton Model from Dr. Melanie Margiotta and how he could apply his pharmaceutical knowledge in a faith-filled way.

He saw the chance to use his expertise to help couples learn about God’s plan for marriage and sexuality, and couples experiencing infertility to meet that challenge in moral and also scientifically proven ways.

“I was excited,” Ocampo said. “When I learned that I could practice again and use my pharmaceutical knowledge, I was excited.”

He has since attended training sessions at the Pope Paul VI Center in Omaha in order to become a certified Creighton Model practitioner.

Studying the wealth of scientific data has been challenging for Ocampo. But he sees the good in it.

“There is a strong scientific foundation for this method,” he said. “We don’t say things just because [we want to]. We don’t make recommendations just because. A lot of research has been done.”

Peg McEvoy, associate director for evangelization and family catechesis of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education, has worked with Ocampo and sees an advantage in his professional expertise in sharing the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.

“The more we can share this message in a way that speaks to the disciplines of science, medicine and pharmacology, I think we’ll have more and more people in those fields being drawn to these methods,” McEvoy said. “Yes, it’s based on our understanding of God and humanity. But it’s also based on our understanding of science and medicine. They just fit so beautifully together.”

Being bilingual, Ocampo can share the message of natural family planning to a variety of audiences. But he looks forward especially to helping couples in the growing Latino community in central and southern Indiana.

“I think that one of the main reasons that God showed me this way was because there is a huge, huge need in the Latino community [for knowledge about natural family planning],” Ocampo said. “And it’s not just to go and teach the natural family planning method. But through this method, you can evangelize or re-evangelize the Latino community.”

Annie is confident that her husband can strengthen the faith and marriages of people he will minister to because she has seen it happen in her relationship with him.

“Jesus has strengthened our Catholic faith in a way that we have become closer to him,” she said. “And we ask in prayer to grow in faith [so that] one day it will be a complete conversion. Through all of this change that has happened in Jose, it made a change in me as well.”

As he moves forward in this ministry, in which he happily foresees working together with Annie, Jose is happy to be doing it in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which he now considers home.

“It’s a perfect place [for us to live]. We love it,” he said. “When people ask me where I’m from, I say, without thinking, ‘from Indianapolis.’ I feel that this is my home.”

(For more information about Jose Ocampo’s ministry as a Creighton Model of natural family planning practitioner intern, send him an e-mail at jocampomora@yahoo.com or call him at 317-847-0195.)

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