By Maria Wiering
CATONSVILLE – Children played in a corner of the reception area at St. Agnes Hospital’s new Natural Fertility Care practice May 31 as Archbishop William E. Lori blessed its rooms with holy water. Many of them had been delivered by Dr. Mary Ann Sorra, who leads the new practice, and had come with their parents to congratulate the obstetrician and gynecologist on her new endeavor.
Dr. Sorra began seeing patients in her new practice June 3, but May 31 – the feast of the Visitation – was really her first day, she said.
According to St. Agnes, the practice is the only obstetrics and gynecology practice in the region that focuses on natural family planning, or NFP, a Catholic Church-approved method for achieving or avoiding pregnancy based on women’s fertility cycles, without the use of artificial contraception. It is located on the hospital’s main campus.
A parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Towson, Dr. Sorra stopped prescribing artificial contraception in 2009, but was the only physician to do so at her previous practice, Village OB/GYN Associates in Pikesville.
At the time, she was afraid of losing patients and didn’t want to publicize her decision, but now she wants to shout it from the rooftops, she said.
“This effort is not really about me, it’s about God using us to evangelize,” she said. “To be able to be more public about it is huge, to be a beacon of light. In Pikesville, it was my own thing, it was singular. It was accepted but certainly not celebrated. To be able to come to a Catholic hospital and have it be public … it’s different. It changes the arena and the message.”
St. Agnes recruited Dr. Sorra to launch the new Natural Fertility Care practice, where she is the sole physician. She hopes the practice’s philosophy and methods will attract other doctors, she said. She also hopes it shows Catholic doctors that they can follow the church’s teachings with medical integrity.
“When I stopped prescribing birth control about four years ago, all I could think about is persecution,” Dr. Sorra told those who gathered for a reception in honor of the new practice. “Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would find myself in an office like this, in a hospital that would celebrate this.”
Archbishop Lori thanked those who attended the blessing for “believing what the church teaches” in matters of human sexuality, including its rejection of artificial contraception and artificial reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization.
“As unpopular as it (church teaching) may be, it just happens to be true, and it is life giving,” he said.
Linda Brenegan, director of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Respect Life Office, said people have long wanted a medical practice like Dr. Sorra’s in the Baltimore area.
“It’s very important for our Catholics to know that this service is available and in keeping with their faith,” she said.
Julie Tomko, a natural family planning instructor and parishioner of St. Mark in Fallston, works with Dr. Sorra’s patients who want to learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, a NFP method.
She is grateful to have the new Natural Fertility Care practice in Baltimore, she said. Before Dr. Sorra incorporated NFP into her practice, Tomko referred clients to practices in northern Virginia and Pennsylvania for comprehensive care consistent with NFP practices, she said.
“Knowing that you’re in an atmosphere that is pro-life, pro-woman and pro-child in every respect is a welcome feeling,” she said.
Prior to joining St. Agnes, Dr. Sorra delivered babies at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson. She will continue to deliver babies at Sinai in addition to St. Agnes, she said.
The new practice reflects St. Agnes’ Catholic values, said Dr. Adrian E. Long, St. Agnes’ chief medical officer.
“Women and children’s services is one of our showcase specialties,” he said. “(Dr. Sorra) provides a unique kind of practice that gives an additional option for women in specialized obstetrical care.”
Dr. Sorra’s brother, Father James L. Sorra, is pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea.
June 5, 2013 CatholicReview.org