NFP Awareness Week runs from July 25-31, highlighting the anniversary of the landmark papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which articulates Catholic belief about human sexuality.
Can you talk about how the Vietnam War led you to your life’s work of nursing?
I was at Marquette University studying biology, but nursing was always something that I found interesting. In 1968, they came out with the first lottery draft, which was based on your birthday. My number was very low, so I knew I would be drafted. I decided to join the 452nd General Hospital Unit as an operating room technician. I then sought and received a transfer into the student Army Nurse Corp and completed a BS in nursing from Marquette University.
When did Natural Family Planning become your area of expertise?
In 1983, Dr. John Brennan, Ob/Gyn, former president of the Catholic Medical Association, asked me to start a NFP program at the Marquette University College of Nursing. I had no interest in NFP; I was involved with parish nursing and health care for the homeless and cardiovascular research. I wrote a grant to obtain money for two maternal child faculty to attend the Creighton University/Pope Paul VI Institute program – but one of the faculty quit and the Dean asked me to take her place. I lost a lot of sleep about her request. The short story of it is that I and others have been providing NFP services through the College of Nursing, and previously through Saint Joseph’s Hospital, since 1985.
When did the Institute for Natural Family Planning begin?
With a generous donation to the University in 1997, we started an Institute for Natural Family Planning, developed a new modern method of NFP, developed a professional training program for health professionals, conducted and published many studies on our system of NFP and taught thousands of couples throughout the world our system of NFP – either in person or through modern online and web-based fertility charting systems
Is this a path that you ever anticipated you would take in life?
I never dreamed of becoming a professional nurse – but the Vietnam War and the draft led me to that direction and I thank the Army for my nursing education. I never dreamed of becoming a professor – I have a hard time speaking before audiences. I have difficulty writing – I dreaded writing assignments in school at all levels. I now have over 200 publications and have edited three books. I never dreamed of being involved with NFP, especially as a single male, but now we have developed one of the most effective, evidenced-based, and modern methods of NFP. So, my experience is that God does not pick the most obvious and smartest and talented persons to carry out his work on earth.
What do you want people to know about NFP?
That the Marquette system of NFP is the most modern, evidenced-based, scientific and effective method of NFP in the United States, and maybe the world. It integrates the most modern and accurate hormonal monitoring technology to help women and couples be secure in their family planning decisions. NFP has entered the jet age in which women are able to quantitatively measure at home their reproductive hormones. This ability also aids in women’s health, as the menstrual cycle is a vital sign of health.
Can you talk about the benefits of NFP that have nothing to do with avoiding or achieving pregnancy?
I’m going to quote from a piece I wrote for Anthropotes, the journal of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences: “Although living with one’s (and one’s spouse’s) fertility through the practice of NFP can be a challenge at times, there are numerous benefits that result. These benefits include the important understanding of how our body works and the peace of knowing that there are no medical side effects. Other benefits reported are those that strengthen marital life, such as increased communication, increased intimacy, renewed sexual desire and being open to new life.”