Marquette method now taught in archdiocese as another tool for NFP-practicing couples

Rocio Madera

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an option to help Catholic families either achieve or avoid pregnancy, including spacing children. This practice observes and tracks fertility signs to accurately determine when a woman is fertile and when she is infertile. In the same way, the NFP also helps couples who want to get pregnant achieve their goal easier.  

Married couples are called to be “procreators” and follow God’s plan, but this does not mean that couples must have a family of 10 children. If that is God’s plan, it is fine, but it is also God who provides the natural tools and resources as a means for family planning using natural methods and without permanently damaging the sacred biological functions of men and women. 

The Archdiocese of Denver offers workshops and courses for couples who want to learn more about the NFP methods and thus live in grace according to God’s plan. This year, the Archdiocese began teaching the Marquette Model so that couples would have the option of choosing a method that fits them best. 

“I have noticed over the years that not every method suits every couple. There is great value in a diocesan NFP program’s ability to offer different methods that help meet the learning or lifestyle needs of a couple.  NFP does not have a one size fits all approach,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist, to the Denver Catholic

Although the Marquette Model has been around for approximately 20 years, it has recently received more exposure through social media and through people sharing their experience using this method. 

Adding the Marquette Model filled a gap within our diocesan NFP program by providing a method that is more objective in its approach to collecting and interpreting the biomarkers of a woman’s fertility.”

Carrie Keating

The Marquette Model method uses the Clear Blue Fertility Monitor along with test strips for women to measure the hormone levels in their urine and identify the beginning and end of their fertile window during each menstrual cycle. If used correctly, this method helps couples trying to conceive identify the most fertile days to increase their chances of pregnancy. For couples who want to avoid pregnancy, this method helps them identify the days they should abstain from intercourse to avoid it.  

“This method is very flexible and has the option to incorporate monitor readings, cervical fluid observations, and temperature readings for couples who feel more comfortable with identifying multiple fertility markers or who are coming from other NFP methods and want to continue using that data,” said Theresa Sullivan, RN, BSN, a local Marquette Method-NFP Instructor. 

The Marquette Model is designed for every woman and couple. The benefits of opting for this method may vary depending on the needs of each woman. Since there are different ways to monitor the fertile phase, this method also helps women with special reproductive circumstances, such as irregular cycles, breastfeeding, pre-menopause, and postpartum. The monitor is very accurate and easy to use at home and this model is “reversible” as couples may change their family planning goals at any time. 

“It is highly recommended to be used only with the guidance of an instructor as this increases efficacy, knowledge, and autonomy,” Sullivan said. “The Marquette Method teachers are all trained medical professionals, including nurses and doctors. We are trained to help women and couples learn more about their bodies and identify any issues that might be preventing cycle regularity or causing infertility.” 

For a couple’s life, the benefits of NFP as a whole are enormous: The wife preserves herself from chemicals or devices and remains with her natural cycle. The husband becomes more involved and is responsible for family planning. They both learn a higher degree of self-control and a deeper respect for each other, which results in better intimacy for the couple. And finally, the couple becomes more aware of their extraordinary and generous contributions and responsibilities as procreators with God. 

“Adding the Marquette Model filled a gap within our diocesan NFP program by providing a method that is more objective in its approach to collecting and interpreting the biomarkers of a woman’s fertility,” Keating concluded. 

For resources on NFP in the Archdiocese of Denver, visit archden.org/eflm/nfp

To find a local instructor for virtual or in-person sessions for the Marquette Method, visit coloradomarquette.wixsite.com/instructors . 

COMING UP: Lessons on proper elder care after my mother’s death

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We buried my Mom last month. 

In the summer of last year, I first drove her to her new memory care facility. My heart was breaking. She was so scared and vulnerable but was trying so hard to be brave. My brother said it was like taking your kid to pre-school for the first time. And never going back to pick her up. 

But we had to do it. She was far too confused for our 97-year-old Dad to take care of her. She didn’t recognize him. She would lock herself in her room, afraid of the “strange man” in their apartment. She wasn’t eating well, and with COVID restrictions we couldn’t get into her independent living facility to monitor her diet or her health. Worst of all, she would wander. Unable to recognize “home” and unable to convince anybody to come get her, she would set off by herself. Dad would realize she was missing and frantically try to find her. Fortunately for us, she always attempted her escapes when the night security guard was at his desk. But we were terrified that some evening she would get out while he was away, and she would roam out into the winter night. 

We knew that, without round the clock support, we couldn’t keep her safe in any of our homes either. So, we concluded that she needed to be placed in a secure memory care facility. I think it was one of the hardest decisions my family has ever faced. We researched. We consulted experts. We hired a placement agency. We came close to placing her in one home, then chickened out because we felt like the owner was pressuring us.  

Finally, we landed on what looked like the best facility for our needs. They specialized in memory care, and we were assured that the staff had been trained to care for people with dementia. They took notes about her diet, health, likes and dislikes. Most important, it was a secured facility. They knew that Mom wandered, and their secured doors and round the clock caregiver oversight seemed like the best way to keep her safe. It was the most expensive facility we had seen. But we figured her safety and well-being were worth it. 

On Jan. 12, Mom was found in that facility’s back yard. Frozen to death.  

She had let herself out through an unsecured exterior door, unnoticed and unimpeded, on a cold winter evening. No one realized she was missing until the next morning.  A health department investigator told me that she had been out there at least 12 hours. Which means caregivers over three shifts failed to recognize her absence. I’m told she was wearing thin pants, a short-sleeved shirt and socks. The overnight low was 20 degrees. 

We are devastated. Beyond devastated. Frankly, I don’t know that it has completely sunk in yet. I think the brain only lets in a little horror at a time. I re-read what I just wrote, and think “Wow, that would be a really horrible thing to happen to a loved one.” 

I debated what my first column after Mom’s death would look like. I have felt compelled, in social media, to celebrate the person my Mom was and the way she lived. To keep the memory alive of the truly amazing person she was. But I think I did it mostly to distract my mind from the horror of how she died. 

But I am feeling more compelled, in this moment, to tell the story of how she died. Because I think it needs to be told. Because others are struggling with the agonizing decision to place a parent in memory care. Because when we were doing our research, we would have wanted to know that these kind of things happen. 

I am not naming the facility here. It will be public knowledge when the Colorado Department of Health and Environment report is completed. From what I am told, they are horrified at what happened and are working very hard to make sure it never happens again.

My point here is much bigger. I am discovering the enormous problems we face in senior care, particularly in the era of COVID. I was told by someone in the industry that, since the facilities are locked down and families can’t get in to check on their loved ones, standards are slipping in many places. With no oversight, caregivers and managers are getting lazy. I was in regular communication with Mom’s house manager, and I raised flags every time I suspected a problem. But you can only ascertain so much in phone conversations with a dementia patient. 

Now, since her death, we have discovered that her nightly 2 a.m. bed check — a state mandated protocol — had only been done once in the ten days before her death. She could have disappeared on any of those nights, and no one would have realized it. 

I have wracked my brain, to figure out what we could have done differently. The facility had no previous infractions. Their reputation was stellar. Their people seemed very caring. Their web site would make you want to move in yourself. 

Knowing what I know now, I would have asked some very specific questions. How are the doors secured? Are they alarmed? Is the back yard accessible at night? Are bed checks actually done every night? Who checks the logs to confirm? 

I would check for infractions at the CDPHE web site. Then I would find out who owns the facility, and do some online stalking. Is this a person with a history of caring for the elderly, or just someone who has jumped into the very trendy, very profitable business of elder care? I am very concerned that, for many, this “business model” is built on maximizing profits by minimizing compensation for front line workers — the people actually caring for our loved ones. 

Dad is living with me now. We are not inclined to trust any facilities with his care. Watching him grieve has been heartbreaking. If you talk to him, do me a favor and don’t mention how she died. It’s hard enough to say good-bye to his wife of nearly 60 years, without having to grapple with this, too. 

I am, frankly, still in disbelief. I don’t know exactly where I am going from here. But I do know one thing. I want my Mom’s death to spur a closer look at the way we care for our vulnerable elderly. 

Because I don’t want what happened to my Mom to happen to another vulnerable elderly person again. Ever.