When Stacey and Nick Gish of St. John Paul II Parish in Affton
were married in the Church in 2009, having a family was part of their
plan. But the plan
didn’t unfold exactly as they envisioned.
“Everything we wanted to happen didn’t happen,” Stacey Gish said.
a year of trying to conceive, she was referred to a specialist, who
said she had “unexplained infertility.” The doctor recommended in vitro
fertilization. It was a huge leap they didn’t want to make.
was like, ‘I don’t understand why the doctors don’t want to try to find
out what’s wrong with you first,’” she recalled. “I’m a microbiologist,
so I agreed with that. Why don’t we want to figure out what’s going on?”
the Gishes went through marriage preparation in Carbondale, Ill., they
were given general information on natural family planning. They had
never learned the specifics of NFP — including how to chart her
menstrual cycles. “It was like NFP light,” she said.
hadn’t learned about the different NFP methods, including the Creighton
Model FertilityCare System, which was developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers as
a direct response to Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” The
document, written 50 years ago this month, outlines what God intended
married love and life to be and how the procreation of children are a
part of that.
Pope Paul VI also noted in the document that doctors
must “support those lines of action which accord with faith and with
right reason. … For then, when married couples ask for their advice,
they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them
in the proper direction.”
The Gishes were introduced to Diane
Daly, director of the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning and
supervisor of the Department of FertilityCare Services at Mercy St.
Louis. The couple began charting Stacey’s cycles via the Creighton
model, and they were referred to Dr. Gavin Puthoff, a Creighton/NaPro
Technology trained OB/GYN, who helped them discover several contributors
to Stacey’s infertility and treated them.
The couple is expecting their first born in August.
Gishes are still in awe at the miracle that they have created. They see
“Humanae Vitae” as a good foundation that helped them keep close to God
when they were struggling with infertility. Prior to this pregnancy,
the couple had experienced an early miscarriage, and “Humanae Vitae”
served as a reminder that God was not abandoning them at what was a
difficult moment in their marriage.
“‘Humanae Vitae’ says that God
is in your marriage,” Stacey Gish said. “I had to remind myself that
this (miscarriage) happened for whatever reason … but I clung to God and
Nick, and that helped me through it.”
Now that they’re
celebrating the impending arrival of their first child, they’re
anticipating all of the things that come with being parents — including
future family trips to Table Rock Lake, playing sports and Sunday
“I’m looking forward to having our own little family, and our own little rituals,” Nick Gish said.
Learn more about “Humanae Vitae”
To learn more about the different methods of natural family planning and sign up for an introductory class, visit
Advancing NFP and women’s health care
the past decade or so, there has been a shift in the degree of accuracy
in which Natural Family Planning methods such as the Creighton Model
identify issues with a woman’s health. Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who founded
the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in 1985,
published a comprehensive reference book in 2004 that has been described
by doctors and other medical professionals as a platform for the
practice of medicine working in cooperation with a woman’s natural
Daly noted that roughly one third of clients at Mercy
FertilityCare Services are dealing with infertility, and the other
two-thirds have at least one gynecological health issue. NFP, “is
advancing to include the area of women’s health care in a few
forward-moving way so women can get better health care,” she said.
“There are better approaches now, and it’s becoming more accepted in our
Daly also described “Humanae Vitae” as the foundation
of the work her office does with NFP. Blessed Paul VI called scientists,
health care professionals, priests, bishops and others “to help people
live this teaching, recognizing that it can be difficult for people,”
Daly said. “It can also strengthen the marriage and family life.”
Paul VI predicted several issues society would face if it embraced
contraception, including an increase in the objectification of women,
governmental support of contraception, and a general weakening of
morality in the area of sexuality. “These things he prophesied have come
true in our culture,” Daly said. “We’re here to build strong couples,
strong families and to build a culture of life.”
Archdiocese of St. Louis, there are five methods of natural family
planning offered and more than 30 providers at 22 locations. Instruction
in Spanish also is available. As part of marriage preparation in the
archdiocese, engaged couples are required to attend an introductory NFP
session, which explains how it works.
Julie Bostick, executive
director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life
(formerly Office of Laity and Family Life), noted that the introductory
NFP session is critical to having well-formed engaged couples as they
approach the Church to receive the sacrament of marriage.
Church’s teaching is we should be using NFP for responsibly planning our
families,” Bostick said. “They need to be able to make an educated
decision when it comes to NFP. If we’re asking them to stand up in front
of God … they need to understand what it is they are consenting to. If
they don’t understand it, we’re not doing our job efficiently.”
also said there are several positive factors engaged couples learn
after being introduced to NFP, including an increase in a couple’s
communication skills and a deeper respect for each others’ bodies and
fertility. “It makes such a difference when they see it as a shared
fertility, and not just about her fertility,” she said.
Upcoming events marking the anniversary of ‘Humanae Vitae’
St. Louis Young Adults Theology on Tap: 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company. Lauren Scharmer will present “Love in the Waiting.”
Love and Life Mass and Dinner:
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, 5 p.m. Saturday,
July 21, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Catered dinner will
follow in Boland Hall. Cost is $12 for adults, $6 for children 3-11, or a
maximum of $60 per household. To purchase tickets, visit stlouisreview.com/jLw or call Melissa Barnason at (314) 997-7576.
Natural family planning talk:
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 27, at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield. Four
couples will share their personal stories of using natural family
planning. A priest and several health care professionals will
participate in a panel discussion with the couples. Register at www.bit.ly/NFPevent or email Katie Sullivan at [email protected]
2-7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in
Shrewsbury. The event will include family games, Mass, dinner and an
outdoor concert. Adult registration (17 and over) is $12.50, children’s
(ages 3-16) tickets cost $5 and entrance is free for ages 0-2. Register
online by July 25 at archstl.org/palooza.
Wine and Wisdom event:
6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Cardinal Rigali Center in
Shrewsbury. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae,” a
panel discussion, “On Love and Life: An Evening of Conversation, Wine
and Wisdom,” will bring clarity to the Church’s teaching on marriage,
sexuality, life and fertility. Heavy appetizers, wine and beverages will
be provided at the free event. RSVP by Sept. 15 at bit.ly/WineWisdomSTL.
Conference on “Humanae Vitae” in health care:
Oct. 11-13 at Saint Louis University. “Advancing ‘Humanae Vitae’: Best
Practices and Next Steps in Catholic Health Care Delivery and Education”
is a three-day national conference that will address how to better
advance the encyclical’s core principles in contemporary health care.
The conference is open to health care professionals and other diocesan
leaders, allied organizations and health care ethicists. For more
information or to register, visit HVandHealthCare.com.
‘Humanae Vitae’ said to be rooted in respect Church has for human dignity
By Dennis Sadowski | Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — Fifty years ago, an encyclical was released
affirming a long-held teaching of the Catholic Church, yet it became one
of the most controversial encyclicals in recent Church history.
Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), subtitled “On
the Regulation of Birth,” reaffirmed the Church’s moral teaching on the
sanctity of life, married love, the procreative and unitive nature of
conjugal relations, responsible parenthood and its rejection of
Blessed Paul in “Humanae Vitae” said that the only
licit means of regulating birth is natural family planning. In the
document, he asked scientists to improve natural family planning methods
“providing a sufficiently secure basis for a regulation of birth
founded on the observance of natural rhythms.” Dr. Thomas Hilgers
founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction
in Omaha, Neb., as a direct response to the Holy Father’s call. (See
At the time of its release, “Humanae Vitae” was greeted
with protests and petitions. But the 50th anniversary has been marked by
conferences, lectures and academic discussions as theologians, clergy,
family life ministers and university professors have explored what its
teachings mean for the 21st-century Church.
Blessed Paul issued “Humanae Vitae” as contraception, particularly the birth control pill, became commonplace.
many thought the pope might support the use of artificial
contraception, especially after a majority of members on a papal
commission studying the issue approved a draft document in 1966
endorsing the principle of freedom for Catholic couples to decide for
themselves about the means of regulating births.
proposed that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil and
said under specific circumstances, Catholic couples could use
contraceptives in good conscience. It was supported by 64 of the 69
commission members who voted on it, including nine of its 16 episcopal
The document was intended for the pope only, but it was
leaked to the press, which heightened expectations of a major change in
Blessed Paul rejected the majority’s
recommendations and, instead, decided to uphold Church teaching on
artificial contraception. The text of the document thanked the
commission experts but added that the pope thought its proposed
solutions “departed from the moral teaching on marriage proposed with
constant firmness by the teaching authority of the Church.”