Living her conviction that persons in the helping professions need to reposition themselves in the arena of life as they feel impelled to, Catherine Bernard, a nun by calling and a physician by training, decided to switch from being a medical doctor to being a Family Life Professional.
Catherine Bernard graduated from St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India, trained as a certified Family Life Professional at the World Organization of the Ovulation Method Billings and Research and Reference Center for Natural Family Planning, Australia. She followed this up with a course of study at the International Institute on Family Life, Los Angeles, California. Subsequently, she became a Certified Fellow at the International Council on Sex Education and Parenthood of the American University in Washington DC, USA. While pursuing a career as a Family Life Professional, Dr. Bernard also earned a Post Graduate Degree in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University, Bronx, New York.
Dr. Bernard has assisted the Church and Civil Society groups in UK, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, USA, Guatemala, and several countries in Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Taiwan and several countries in Africa to start Family Life programs.
In a span of 15 years, her speaking engagements have taken her to over 35 countries. She has engaged with governments, United Nations corporate entities, university faculty, professional organizations and associations, students in schools and colleges, parents, religious leaders, including from the Vatican, and social and civil society representatives, offering them insights on issues and social trends that severely affect the family.
Dr. Bernard has travelled to plantations, mining industries, rural areas, orphanages, rehabilitation centers, towns, cities and slums, and held meetings with key officials, influential groups and key decision makers in the countries she visited, regarding family-centric policies. She has always endeavored to demonstrate that sustainable development initiatives must recognize lacunae in existing programs and endeavor to include Family – ”The Missing Link” – as an indispensable component in the development process.
In 1986 Dr. Bernard established the Service and Research Foundation of Asia on Family and Culture, renamed in 2010 as Service and Research Institute on Family and Children (SERFAC) at Chennai, India.
Under the aegis of SERFAC she has organized numerous seminars and workshops for the region and 13 International Conferences in India and abroad, of which three were Global meets, These conferences brought together over 2000 delegates representing Governments, the United Nations, Church leaders, Civil Society and NGOs from over 96 countries. At the conclusion of the latest meet – the 2011 Conference in Bangkok, The Global Alliance of Families was launched.
An outstanding characteristic of Dr. Catherine Bernard’s work over the last three decades is its inclusiveness of all sections of society, religious affiliations and faiths, engaging stakeholders at various levels to recognize that Family is central to all of life; if the Family fails, Society fails, if it succeeds, Society stands to gain; the Family holds the key to the future.
Dr. Bernard was conferred the title of “IYF Patron” by Family Focal Point, UN, at Malta in 1994 and at Vienna in 1995 for her outstanding contribution to the work of Family Focal Point during the First International Year of The Family (IYF) and observance of May 15th as The First International Day of The Family in 1994.
Dr. Bernard has actively participated in UN events, including the Millennium Forum, where she lobbied for ’Family’ to be included in the final document, and the UNICEF Prep.Com, where, as an Asia Pacific Caucus member, she lobbied for family-centric policies in the final document.
She participated in the UN Special Assembly Co-Copenhagen +5 at Geneva and represented the Asia Pacific Caucus in presenting a statement at the Assembly. She has made several oral statements and written statements for inclusion in the Commission of Social and Economic Development at the UNO.
In November 2012, Dr. Catherine Bernard will be credited for organizing global initiative : cooperation for human development goal : revitalizing the fabric of society for common good : options and opportunities in Bangkok, Thailand.
Dr. Bernard was requested by the UN to author a chapter in its new book “FAMILY FUTURES” to observe 20 years of Establishment of The International Year of the FAMILY. The chapter authored is “Family Centric Approaches to Poverty Eradiction in India”.
Dr. Bernard has held important positions in her own country, India, and abroad.
- First Secretary to the Regional Bishops’ Council for Family Life Promotion (during which time she established the first Family Life Centre in India)
- Member, Advisory Board, Department of Population Studies, George Washington University, Washington DC
- Advisor to Misereor (Germany) and the Indo-German Social Service Society for the NFP project in India
- Vice-President, Catholic Hospital Association of India
- Advisor, Ministry of Health, Governments of Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya, and Trainer for NFP teachers in these countries
- Visiting faculty at the John Paul II, Institute on Marriage and Family, Rome
- Consultant to Family Health International, North Carolina ,USA
- Consultant to USAID in India for evaluating the All India NFP program
- Consultant to the Families of the Americas Foundation for developing a world-wide project for training NFP providers in Developing Countries
- Principal Investigator for research projects to test the feasibility of NFP in conditions of extreme poverty and Reproductive health and infant mortality in India. (an Indian Council of Medical Research appointment).