Event celebrates ‘wonderful gift of life’

Cassidy Kuhn, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, speaks during the virtual Culture of Life event Nov. 7.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

More than 40 households logged in to YouTube to learn about Natural Family Planning and pro-life women’s health care during a virtual Culture of Life event Nov. 7.

“I believe things went well, despite obstacles that popped up the day of the broadcast,” said JoEllen Ritchie, a member of St. Mary Parish-Solon’s Culture of Life Committee.

The annual event, which raises scholarship funds for persons wanting to learn or teach the Creighton Model FertilityCare system, traditionally happens in-person with speakers and a potluck-style meal. Organizers, who include members of the Solon committee and the St. Wenceslaus-Iowa City Knights of Columbus Council, decided to make this year’s event virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Cassidy Kuhn, a FertilityCare Practitioner and a member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, served as emcee. The live presentation required a higher speed internet connection than the Iowa City or Solon parish could provide, so Kuhn reported from Immaculate Conception Parish in Cedar Rapids. “We called around to try to find a facility that could accommodate us, and Immaculate Conception jumped from a short list to the top of the list very quickly. We are very thankful they said yes,” Ritchie said.

Father Gary Beckman, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish, offered a blessing to start the evening. “May we your servants never cease to be thankful for the wonderful gift of life,” he prayed, asking God to open the hearts and minds of the speakers and participants.

In pre-recorded footage, people in training to become FertilityCare practitioners and medical consultants spoke of their experiences with birth control and Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP is the only method of family planning approved by the Catholic Church. The FertilityCare system, in conjunction with the St. Paul VI institute in Omaha, uses a woman’s fertility signs to achieve or avoid pregnancy and to identify various female infertility issues. Event speakers shared how they became aware of the Creighton Model FertilityCare system and what they have learned from training through the St. Paul VI Institute. All of the speakers benefitted from scholarships funded by previous Culture of Life dinners in Solon and Iowa City.

Marie Ripslinger-Atwater talks about the role of hormones in a woman’s menstrual cycle during a virtual Culture of Life event Nov. 7.

One of the speakers, Marie Ripslinger-Atwater of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, is training to become a FertilityCare Practitioner. She attended the Women’s Health Care Matters conference in 2018 at St. Paul VI Institute and “left the conference knowing I wanted to become a practitioner.”

Having struggled for years to find and learn a method of Natural Family Planning after her marriage to husband Shawn Atwater, “I want to be the person who makes that method accessible. … I want to meet women where they are at and teach them how to observe, chart and interpret fertility signs so they can make decisions that are best for them at that point in their life.” The method is “scientifically based and really does work. It’s a wonderful way to help build and strengthen marriages in the process.”

Studies have shown that the Creighton Model system of Natural Family Planning is more than 98.5 percent effective in determining a woman’s fertility window, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Other speakers from throughout Iowa spoke about how transitioning from artificial birth control to Natural Family Planning has improved their health, strengthened their marriages and, in some cases, increased their fertility and ability to carry unborn children to term.

So far, donors have contributed $13,000 to the cause. Encore presentations will take place Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. on YouTube at https://youtu.be/aQ9AJV28wHU.

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