Catholic medical professionals, clergy and lay people from across the United States and around the world are gathering this weekend to honor the legacy of the papal encyclical “Humane Vitae” and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction based in Omaha, Nebraska.
Included among the featured speakers and guests at the “Labor Day Weekend Celebration of Love & Life” are Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Healthcare Workers, and Raymond Arroyo, anchor and host of EWTN’s “The World Over.”
The opening session on Thursday included a presentation by Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, CFCE, founder of the institute and a leading researcher in identifying Catholic-approved solutions to infertility with medical and surgical techniques that are all part of a new women’s health science known as NaPro Technology (natural procreative technology).
In his remarks to the more than 125 assembled guests, Hilgers recounted his professional journey of answering the call of Pope Paul VI in “Humane Vitae” who made an “appeal to men of science” in the controversial teaching document that was released in July 1968.
Hilgers told those gathered that like most Catholics of his era, he had heard rumors that Pope Paul VI was preparing to set aside Church teaching prohibiting the use of artificial contraception, and was as surprised as anyone when those rumors turned out to be false.
After reading the encyclical, he felt much of the message was directed to him on a personal level and immediately began contemplating ways to answer Pope Paul VI’s challenge to find and develop new reproductive healthcare methods and protocols to replace the pill and other emerging artificial reproductive technologies.
Before long, his investigation into the wonder of human reproduction, much of it based on the work of Dr. John Billings, became a passion, one he was destined to continue for the next four decades.
“I started asking myself the question: ‘Why Me Lord?’,” recalled Hilgers. “But after awhile, that question became, ‘Why not me, Lord?’ This is the question I pose to all of you here now.’’
Today, the Pope Paul VI Institute is widely recognized as a leading force in Catholic-approved reproductive health, applying clinically-proven science and medicine for the benefit of countless couples throughout the world. Hilgers and his colleagues helped create the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (CrMS), a standardized method of achieving or avoiding pregnancy based on so-called “bio-markers” of women, and is available at hundreds of FertilityCare Centers around the world. The basic tenets of CrMS form the foundation of NaPro Technology —a direct result of Pope Paul VI’s hopes and prayers offered more than 40 years ago.
Friday's presentations will have a distinctly international flavor, with a focus on the medical and scientific advances of NaPro Technology—still considered an emerging healthcare science. Medical professionals and NaPro Technology practitioners from Chile, Ireland, Poland, Spain and Taiwan will join their colleagues from the United States in making presentations. Cardinal Rigali will be the principal celebrant and homilist for Mass on Friday.
Saturday is designated as “Love & Life Celebration Fun Day,” with hundreds of so-called “NaPro babies” and their parents enjoying music, entertainment and arcade games. EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo will be the featured banquet speaker that night and Archbishop Zimowski will be the principal celebrant at the closing Mass on Sunday morning.