Imagine you are a married couple who plans to raise a family. Maybe you would like enough children to field your own basketball team.
If you are Catholic, you are more likely to have a larger family. And in this imaginary case the family is Catholic and simply can’t conceive.
The hope for a large family becomes a desperate hope for a child, maybe two. And the fear grows of being a childless couple in a Catholic world of couples with kids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Nation Center for Health Statistics (CDC for short), of American women in their childbearing age, 12.1 percent have “impaired fecundity” and 6.7 percent are infertile. By the way, the CDC defines the childbearing years as 15-44.
Bottom line: millions of couples have a difficult time conceiving a child. And more than one in 10 women will use “infertility services” in an effort to have a child.
For Catholics and practitioners of some other religions, some of the infertility services cross the moral line. Ironically, moral issues arise in the area of creating fertility much as in preventing conception via artificial birth control.
That’s where the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction enters the picture.
The Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, NE, founded in 1985 by Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, is internationally recognized for its outstanding achievements in the field of natural fertility regulation and reproductive medicine — 33 years of scientific research and educational program development; allied health professional education programs for couples and professionals; professional, caring, and morally acceptable patient services. The Institute is building a culture of life in women’s health care through its major developments — Creighton Model Fertility Care System and NaProTechnology.
And as its name suggests, the Institute works strictly in conformity with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Its mission is “Building a Culture of Life in Women’s Care.”
There is a good deal of medical science and technology. But helping couples who can’t conceive also requires a high level of loving bedside manner. Couple who come for consultation and treatment may have to spend days or even weeks, often needing a place to stay.
That where Carolyn Moriarty steps in as part Bed & Breakfast operator, part mom, part grandmother and a sometimes shoulder to cry on.
Carolyn joined Regnum Christi in Kansas City in 1997. She is a cradle Catholic, second oldest of eight children, who raised her own son and daughter – and her brother’s son and daughter after he died when they were very young.
Her son Michael today is Fr. Michael Moriarty, LC, who works with youth in Philadelphia. He also has been known to write and perform music and was choir director during his years of study in Rome.
Carolyn went to the PPVI in 1980 to learn about natural family planning. After her kids were grown, she went back to work as a medical secretary in the maternity unit of a hospital in Omaha.
She became close friends with a female doctor at the hospital who worked with the Institute. Her new friend asked if she would be willing to have a visiting medical resident stay at her home.
Carolyn figured it wouldn’t be much trouble, so she welcomed her first house guest. And even though she was working and had a host of family obligations, she embarked on what grew into an informal Bed and Breakfast for travelers to the Institute.
“I really enjoy having the people around,” Carolyn said. “Each visitor is unique and a total blessing to me.
“I get emotionally involved with everyone who stays here and when they get pregnant later and have a baby, they send pictures…I feel like I’m a grandma again!”
In addition to being a “grandma by association,” Carolyn is a real Nonni to her daughter Emily’s three children and, appropriately enough, those three kids were the result of Emily’s treatment at the Institute. This is one reason Carolyn wants to help other young women who are hoping for a family.
“The people who stay here are always so appreciative and tell me I’m doing a great service, but I feel like I’m the one who really benefits. When couple goes through treatment and then has a baby they are so thrilled – and I get to share in that joy. That’s the best part of this.
“A couple who stayed here recently decided to adopt and are looking forward to that, while they continue receiving infertility care.”
Occasionally, the story doesn’t have as happy an ending. Carolyn recalls a women who went through treatment but the doctors were unable to help.
“She and her husband came back to the house and we just sat and cried together. But we stay in touch and they have recently adopted a baby girl. This couple has a special place in my heart because we grieved together.”
Carolyn’s usual guests are couples getting counseling and treatment at the Institute. But she also has had doctors, nurses and people learning to teach the NFP charting methods used at the Institute.
For Carolyn, her “simple apostolate” is all about providing a homey atmosphere for visiting couples who are going through a difficult time in their lives. After all, by the time they have decided to visit The Pope Paul VI Institute, they likely have experienced years of frustration and visited their personal doctors, received advice from well-meaning friends and family, and are experiencing a combination of hope and fear. The Institute isn’t the first step in the path to parenthood, but probably the last chance.
A simple internet search on “infertility” will generate myriad articles on everything from medical advice to superstitious solutions to well-meaning paths to acceptance. There are even columns about how to have a sense of humor about not being able to have a baby.
Carolyn Moriarty’s apostolate is a simpler, more loving, totally Catholic solution. She offers patience, understanding, hospitality, and love. Her home is a place of hope.