Tori Franke speaks at the Natural Family Planning Summit. (Submitted photos)
The goal of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s first-ever Natural Family Planning Summit was simple: gather a host of NFP-supportive medical personnel, laypeople and clergy together in one room for an evening of fellowship, connection and renewal.
“The whole hope was to really be able to say, first of all, ‘We see you — your work is oftentimes incredibly hidden but so, so important to the community, and we just want to thank you for everything you’ve been doing faithfully for years,’” said Tori Franke, Natural Family Planning coordinator for the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, the entity that hosted the summit at the Wisconsin Club in downtown Milwaukee.
The evening began with a cocktail hour where close to 40 attendees were able to mingle and network. Building a stronger sense of community for those who support and promote the practice of NFP — from instructors to priests, lay ministers to doctors — has long been a priority for Franke.
“There are many awesome people locally who have been doing this work for a long time, but it can be isolating at times, especially because we’re such a large archdiocese,” she said. “You don’t necessarily know who all the other people are. Even from a referral standpoint, whether that’s a priest referring a couple to a medical provider, or a medical provider referring someone to an NFP instructor.”
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was also in attendance and addressed the group following the cocktail hour. In a statement included with the evening’s agenda, the archbishop wrote that the work of the gathered attendees “touches a very intimate and hidden area in the lives of everyday Catholics.”
“Today we pause to thank you for your diligence in living out your faith by witnessing to God’s beautiful design for married love and for helping those you serve to draw closer to their spouse and closer to the heart of Christ,” he wrote. “I want to thank you for being present and loving in those often-unseen spaces. We need you and we value your service.”
In her remarks that evening, Franke outlined her vision for the newly expanded role of NFP coordinator, which became a full-time position in the last year.
Among Franke’s priorities are engaging with parishes, helping them to strengthen their existing NFP ministries or increase their access to crucial resources, as well as maintaining consistently robust support for NFP instructors throughout the archdiocese.
Franke is also focusing on interfacing with direct contact with users of NFP. That can be individuals or couples at parishes without an existing NFP ministry, those who are returning to the faith or couples who have been practicing one method but need to switch to another. Franke is also working on building resources to support the parents of girls who have yet to undergo puberty and want to learn the basics of cycle-charting.
“The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recognizes that a woman’s cycle is a vital sign of health, just like pulse and temperature,” she said. “Making this more part of the general conversation of life, from a girl’s first period through high school and college, regardless of what her vocation is — that information matters deeply.”
Another priority, said Franke, is providing support for medical providers. “We want to connect with as wide a pool of medical providers (as possible) in a variety of specialties so that those providers know they’re supported, they’re seen, we’ve got their back,” she said.
Fr. Michael Malucha, associate pastor at Three Holy Women Parish in Milwaukee, said the “sense of community” at the summit “was so evident during the conversations of the evening.”
“Perhaps most especially in the realization that whether one was married or ordained, single or preparing for marriage, you were not alone in your love for God’s gift of human sexuality, its expression within marriage as faithful love, and the Church’s great teachings on natural family planning, especially when the Catholic witness seems to be becoming ever more isolated within our culture,” Fr. Malucha said.
It was also a reminder, he said, “of one of the most sacred and urgent of the Church’s tasks, that of the care for the holiness and adventure of family life, within which natural family planning serves as the most authentic expression of married love.”
“Such a love demands much,” Fr. Malucha said. “For that reason, I’m consistently humbled, not only by the selfless witness of those who promote NFP, but also by the generous sacrifice of those couples who commit themselves to this way of love.”
Those interested in learning more about Natural Family Planning can visit www.archmil.org/naturalfertilitycare or reach out to Tori Franke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-758-2241.