Juan and Maria Garcia celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary this year.
Q. Tell us about your family.
Juan Garcia and I have been married for 41 years. We have three adult children (Juan Jr., Claudia, and Hector). We have five grandchildren and are expecting the sixth in a couple of weeks.
Q. What do you like to do for fun?
What to do for fun changes with time, age and certainly with grandchildren. At this point of life, the one thing that I truly enjoy is having my grandchildren come for sleepovers. Even though it can be a challenge, and most of the time, very exhausting since they are 7 to 2 ½ years old, it is a lot of fun for both my husband and me. The fun part is when all of them want to sleep with grandma and grandpa, and of course, we don’t have a bed big enough to fit us all. With grandpa’s help, we set up sort of a camp in the living room using all the comforters, pillows, blankets, sheets, etc. that we can find. We sleep together, and the grandchildren sleep and wake up very happy, grandparents usually need a couple of days to catch up on their sleep!
Maria celebrates shares a birthday with America. On July 4 this year she gets help blowing out candles with grandchildren John (7), Joseph (5), Zach (4). and Julia (2). Another grandchild, Lily (4), was not part of the photo.
Q. What do you do for work these days?
I have been working on the Catholic parish level recently. For four years, I was at one parish and then moved to a new parish last December. Unfortunately, the pastor at the first parish was not supportive of NFP, so I was not able to do anything about teaching or even promoting it. At the current parish, I see a possibility that they will support me, as I will be getting involved with marriage preparation, and hopefully I can start teaching the Billings Method very soon.
Q. It seems like you have been associated with the Billings Method for years. When did you first hear about it and what inspired you to get involved?
Yes, I can say I have been associated with the Billings Method for close to 30 years! I first heard about it when I started to work as a receptionist for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Sharon Dausman was the NFP Coordinator at the time. She offered to teach me an NFP method which she assured me was not the Rhythm method and was very effective. I found the Billings Method to be quite easy for me to learn since I practically saw my teacher every day at work and took advantage of this and would ask her about my chart and any other questions I had. After a few years as a user, I later became a teacher, then a supervisor, later a trainer.
Q. What inspired you to take those next steps?
As I gained more experience and knowledge teaching the method, and by participating in several Extension Courses, conferences, etc., when BOMA-USA asked me to be a supervisor, I accepted the challenge. I also think that that fact the I am bilingual enabled me to respond to the needs of the Hispanic Community to have more teachers/supervisors available to teach in Spanish.
Q. How else have you been involved with Billings over the years?
I was honored to be part of the BOMA-USA Board, and the Education Committee (where I am currently still a member). I also served as a member of the USCCB’s NFP Committee. Today, I am an associate director for WOOMB International, and I am the Spanish Liaison for Spanish-speaking countries. I am also co-founder of WOOMB Latinoamerica, which started with seven countries (including the United States). It has grown to 17 countries!
Q. Tell us more about WOOMB Latinoamerica.
After years of frustration by several countries for not having the necessary BOM materials in Spanish, we realized that we were all translating our own material, there were different versions of the same materials, and there was no control of who was doing what, and who was approving it. We decided that by working together and collaborating on this task, we would be able to do more and faster. The translating team consisted of three people, a person from Argentina, Mexico, and me. After each translation, we would have Sr. Beatriz (Melbourne) proofread the translations and after her okay, we would be given permission to print, or use the material. This was a slow process, but WOOMB wanted to make sure that the translations were correct, and this was the only way to make sure.
When several BOM leaders from different countries in Latin America came to the WOOMB International conference in 2009 in Melbourne, we met and discussed the progress we had made by then and invited others to a meeting to share the work we were doing, and to invite them to join the group. All the countries present agreed to join us and we came up with the name of “WOOMB Latinoamerica”. The main purpose of the group was going to be to the translation of all BOM material, to support each other by sharing resources, teaching experiences, materials and collaborate in studies, and most important, we were going to help other countries get affiliated with WOOMB International.
We wrote a mission statement for the group, had all members sign it and the WOOMB directors gave us their approval and designated the group as the only ones authorized to do the Spanish Translations for the BOM. By this time, they trusted our commitment and faithfulness to the Billings Method, and it was no longer necessary to have Sr. Beatriz or anyone else proofread the translated materials. I was named coordinator for the group.
Q. What were the original seven countries that initially jumped on board to become WOOMB Latinoamerica and what are the 10 additional countries as of today?
The countries that started this organization were: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, México, Perú and the USA. Other countries that have joined the organization are Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Cuba, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Spain.
Q. That kind of growth among the Spanish-speaking countries is impressive. How did that transpire?
It started with the original group, which was made of those countries that had been through the updating process that WOOMB International was requiring of all teachers and of all affiliates. When we started inviting other countries to join, as a requirement, they needed to be affiliated to WOOMB International as the first step. We helped with the affiliation process by offering Teacher Trainings to update and train new teachers. We also provided teaching materials, and general support with the entire process. Once a country obtained their affiliation with WOOMB International they were automatically welcomed to WOOMB Latinoamerica.
As a member of WOOMB Latinoamerica, countries can count on a system of support which includes sharing of teaching experiences, studies, new teaching materials, conferences, etc., and other benefits that had not been available before to them.
When a country approaches us to be a member, we designate a neighboring country as their mentor, to walk with them until their affiliation is obtained. In most cases, it means traveling to that country to conduct trainings particularly when they have not yet been updated. For example, a team from Mexico helped Costa Rica; a team from Argentina helped Ecuador; a team from Costa Rica helped Nicaragua, etc. The task was not easy since most of the countries that are now members, had been using the Family of the Americas method for many years, and were hesitant to make the move. Once they were introduced to the authentic Billings Method, materials, and support system, they are happy to be part of the organization, and invite others to join.
Q. Tell us more about your niche as the liaison between Spanish-speaking countries and WOOMB.
As the liaison, I make sure that any concerns are translated from Spanish to English and sent to WOOMB. The issues can range from teaching methodology to the training and supervision of new teachers. The application process to become a WOOMB Affiliate can also generate many questions.
Q. We have noticed that typically both the husband and wife attend Spanish trainings. Why is that? It seems like a great idea for the couple to be trained versus just the woman which is often the norm during English trainings.
Yes, typically that is what happens in most of the Latin American countries, but that was not the case with me. My husband totally supported me in using the method but was not interested in being a teacher. He was not comfortable speaking to others about fertility, anatomy, etc., or speaking in public. I like to share my experience with teacher candidates when they feel they cannot come to a Teacher Training because they will be going by themselves.
Q. What should teachers be mindful of when working with Hispanic couples learning Billings? Any special tips?
They like to be taught in Spanish! Even if they know enough English to understand the basics of the method, they feel more comfortable communicating in Spanish, especially on issues about fertility and marital sexual activity. If they are eager to learn the method and there are no Spanish speaking teachers, they will come, but they would prefer it if was all in Spanish. Tips, besides the regular BOM teaching guidelines that apply to all, if possible, offer the teaching materials in Spanish. This applies to users and teachers.
Q. What does the future look like for Billings, particularly in Spanish-speaking countries?
I see a very bright future! They have great teachers, training programs, great publicity, great conferences, and are very well organized. It is amazing to hear about the number of classes, teachers, and overall programs they have to offer. What is also very interesting is that all their BOM organizations are administered by volunteers.
To me, what makes a difference, is that they are totally supported by the Catholic Church in their various countries. And NFP is promoted as part of a Catholic couple’s marriage. I also see very good publicity about the BOM in general, local classes, Teacher Trainings, enrichment for teachers, etc., in the social media.