How a reproductive health pioneer became an 'instant convert' reading Humanae Vitae [CNA]

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/images/size340/Tom_and_Sue__Hilgers_of_the_Pope_Paul_VI_Institute_speak_with_CNA_in_Rome_Oct_16_2014_Credit_Bohumil_Petrik_CNA_CNA_10_16_14.jpgVatican City, Oct 23, 2014 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As founders of an institute studying reproductive healthcare, Thomas and Susan Hilgers have seen the benefits that natural family planning can offer in the realms of health, sexuality and human relationships.

But the couple was not always focused on advocating Church teaching on sexuality and family planning. Their years of dedication to the subject were largely inspired by reading Blessed Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” and later St. John Paul II’s “Familiaris Consortio,” documents that they say bring “great hope and joy to the people to utilize them.”

“This whole concept is rich. I said in another place we should be shouting out from the mountain tops as a Church, we shouldn’t be crawling under like it’s something we have to be embarrassed by,” Dr. Thomas Hilgers told CNA on Oct. 15.

The Hilgers were present in Rome for the Oct. 19 beatification of Pope Paul VI at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. During the Mass, the doctor read aloud one of the Prayers of the Faithful in English.

Together with his wife, Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and the National Center for Women’s Health in Omaha, Neb., in 1985 after reading Paul VI’s encyclical letter “Humanae Vitae” on the regulation of birth.

The doctor recalled that he was one of many people who had expected the Church’s position on contraception to change at the time that the encyclical was released. However, he said, upon reading the document, he was “an instant convert, because the things that were being portrayed in the newspapers and television was not what Humanae Vitae was saying.”

“It was much more, (it was) a rich document spiritually, rich sociologically and rich in a lot of other ways,” he said, noting how at the end of the encyclical Bl. Paul VI had written a series of pastoral directives to physicians and those working in the fields of science and healthcare.

With the feeling that the pontiff was speaking directly to him, Dr. Hilgers went on to complete his first research project in natural methods of parental planning in December 1968, after which he received training in obstetrics and gynecology.

He currently works at the St. Louis University and Creighton University Schools of Medicine. At Creighton, he serves as a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The doctor is also a senior medical consultant in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive medicine and surgery at the Pope Paul VI Institute, where he still serves as director. He was appointed to the permanent membership of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1994.

Together with his other colleagues, Dr. Hilgers developed NaPro Technology – Natural Procreative Technology – a method of women’s healthcare that relies upon scientific methods of monitoring and maintaining a woman’s reproductive health.

Using Creighton Model Fertility Care System biomarkers to monitor the hormonal patterns during the menstrual cycle, NaPro Technology is the current method practiced at the Paul VI Institute, which will change its name following the beatification of its patron.

The technology has successfully been used to help women better understand their bodies’ natural fertility, achieve or avoid pregnancy, and find solutions to a variety of health problems.

In his more than 35 years of experience in the reproductive medical field, Dr. Hilgers said that since the publication of Humanae Vitae, “I don’t know of any other field that could claim such advances in (so) many ways.”

Although medical sciences have changed since the time of Pope Paul VI, the late pontiff knew the importance of promoting natural methods, “and that’s why he called on people to be involved, and that’s why I became involved,” the doctor noted.

“So what we see is the potential that these approaches bring: balance in your sexual life, harmony into your physical life with regard to your illnesses, diseases or whatever you might have, and it builds relationship in marriage.”

Among the institute’s biggest advocates are the women and couples themselves who have received treatment there, said Dr. Hilger’s wife, Susan.

Most women, she told CNA, don’t understand their fertility because “we haven’t been teaching women about how their bodies work and how to live with their fertility.”

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