Damon Owens is the founder of the New Jersey Natural Family Planning Association and Joy-Filled Marriage NJ. He has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and is a frequent speaker on marriage, sexuality, NFP and Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body.
Tell me about your family and your faith background.
I grew up in New Jersey. Both of my parents are from the South. My father is a deacon. My mother was a homemaker. I’m the middle of three children, with an older and a younger sister. I attended Brown University and later the University of California at Berkeley.
My wife, Melanie, and I married in 1993, and we have eight children — seven daughters and one son. Our two youngest children came to us through adoption just in the past two years.
My mother’s family has deep Catholic roots. My father converted to Catholicism when he was 16. His father had been a preacher in the AME [African Methodist Episcopal] Zion church, so it was a big deal when he converted as a teenager.
You were very successful as an engineer and in business. What led to your work with NFP and theology of the body?
As now, my studying engineering grew out of a fascination with what things mean and how things work. I worked for AT&T Bell Labs, which was itself a fascinating place to work. Yet, I had a heart for teaching and speaking, though they weren’t in my background.
Early in our marriage, Melanie and I got involved in pre-Cana ministry and gave NFP and marriage witness talks around the Archdiocese of Newark. It was an exciting time teaching and growing in the faith.
From 1993 until the late 1990s, these grew to where we were doing two or three pre-Cana talks per weekend at parishes around the archdiocese. We were also teaching natural family planning. Everything really flowed from our study of Humanae Vitae. In 1999, we were invited to join a marriage-preparation team teaching at St. Joseph Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York. That was a pivotal time because we began teaching much larger groups of young couples in more difficult situations.
It was not enough to know the “whats” of the faith; we had to learn how to teach compelling “whys” to reach them. At that time also, I had the opportunity to leave Bell Labs and help launch a new technology start-up company. We did well, but it was really burning me out. I sold my ownership in 2002 when Melanie and I prayerfully discerned that it was time to work full time in a marriage apostolate. ...
I founded the New Jersey Natural Family Planning Association — a kind of one-stop NFP shop for people in New Jersey who wouldn’t typically contact a Catholic diocese. We aggregated information on all of the NFP programs in the state and offered seminars for married and engaged couples using the theology of the body-based program “God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage.” I also led the launch of the apostolate Joy-Filled Marriage NJ to provide training, resources and support for engaged and married couples.
I later joined the Theology of the Body Institute as one of their speakers and was just hired in December as the institute’s first executive director.
We first heard about NFP at our marriage prep. We didn’t know about it growing up, so when we promoted NFP, it was animated, with a genuinely fresh awe and wonder. Couples found it relatable and accessible. ...
With the language and approach of theology of the body, we’re able to get to the “whys” behind the “whats” in a compelling way. Uprooting false ideas about sexuality does make people more open to hearing about NFP as a means to marital holiness and joy. ...
Without marriage, the family suffers. Without the family, the community suffers. When the community suffers, our nation suffers. The institutions of marriage, the family and the Church are connected and rooted in the truth and dignity of the human person. ...
There has been a strong, steady decline in the awe and respect for marriage over the last 50 years; yet it seems to have accelerated with the latest redefinition attempts to include same-sex couples. An alarming number of people simply do not know what marriage is — in its essence — and, therefore, don’t treat it as valuable. ...
There’s nothing more impacting and powerful to make the case for marriage than theology of the body. It’s integral to restoring the culture of life. Although it is a catechesis on what it means to be created male and female, it is so much more.
It is a Christian anthropology par excellence. It offers a beautiful, rational and dignified catechesis on human personhood — our origin, our lived experience in history and our destiny. It’s a beautiful synthesis of some of the best theology and philosophy of the past 2,000 years, as well as a scriptural unpacking of spousal theology.
Read more at NCRegister.com.