Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul VI Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Pope Paul’s connection with themes raised at the synod Oct. 5-19 include his best-known encyclical Humanae Vitae, the 1968 letter affirming Church teaching on marriage, family life and contraception.
Many dignitaries will attend the beatification including Dr. Thomas Hilgers, founder of the global medical institute inspired by the pontiff that bears his name: the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb.
Paul VI’s defense of the dignity of marriage and human life in Humanae Vitae resonated with Hilgers when he was a medical student at the University of Minnesota.
“It was like he was talking directly to me,” Hilgers said in a statement. “It changed my life.”
In the encyclical, the Holy Father asked different groups to become involved, including men of science.
“When he died (Aug. 6, 1978), my wife (Sue) and I turned to each other and promised to start the Paul VI institute,” he told the Denver Catholic Register in 2010 when the institute celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Hilgers’ research led to the development of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology, two groundbreaking technologies in reproductive health care that serve as the cornerstones of the institute’s outreach efforts— serving thousands of women and families on six continents. The institute offers obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive medicine and surgery for individuals needing regular or high-risk care, as well as a women’s hormone laboratory and a nationally accredited reproductive ultrasound center.
“I never imagined back in 1968 that I would someday be a part of this great man’s legacy,” Hilgers said of Paul VI. “He was such a staunch defender of the faith, and the courage he demonstrated in Humanae Vitae continues to serve as a source of inspiration to both the institute and to me personally.”
The institute also coordinates educational programs for doctors, other medical professionals, clergy, and lay men and women from all over the world. Two Denver women trained there include nurse practitioners Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, a mother-daughter team who are establishing Bella Natural Women’s Care, a medical practice specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, infertility and contributing issues, through conventional and natural treatment methods.
“Pope Paul VI gave us a trustworthy outline for healthy relationships, strong marriages, and a healthy and thriving world,” Chism said. “We are certainly grateful that Dr. Hilgers answered the call of Humane Vitae in such a concrete, scientific way.
“Pope Paul VI really helped galvanize our mission to embrace the dignity of women with reverence,” she continued, “using scientific, natural methods in cooperation with a woman’s body to restore healing and wellness, with sincere compassion for life.”
Recognizing the world’s vision for women’s health care could destroy women, marriages, babies, families and culture, Pope Paul VI “saw the slippery slope and warned the world,” she added.
Dr. Steve Hickner, a Catholic OB/GYN, will join the team at Bella Dec. 1 after completing a one-year fellowship in medical and surgical NaPro Technology under Hilgers’ direction. Located at 180 E. Hampden Ave., the practice is currently scheduling appointments and is expected to open Nov. 17. There will be an open house and blessing by Archbishop Samuel Aquila Dec. 9.
About Pope Paul VI
Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, he was ordained in 1920 and named archbishop of Milan in 1954. Elected pope in 1963 at the death of St. John XXIII, Paul VI reconvened the Second Vatican Council and presided over three of its four sessions. He also led the implementation of council reforms. Paul VI was the first pope in the modern age to travel abroad, visiting Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, India, the United States (New York), Portugal, Turkey, Colombia, Bermuda, Switzerland, Uganda, Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, Samoan Islands, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. He died at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo Aug. 6, 1978. He will be beatified by Pope Francis Oct. 19.