Founders of Pope Paul VI Institute to Witness Namesake's Beatification

Inspired By the Former Pontiff, the Institute Has Undertaken Groundbreaking Human Fertility Research and Treatment

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When the late Pope Paul VI is beatified in Rome on October 19 — the final step before his canonization as a saint — the founders of the global Catholic medical institute that he inspired and bears his name will be there to witness it. Dr. Thomas Hilgers and his wife Sue, founders of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction based in Omaha, Nebraska, will be among the many dignitaries at the beatification taking place during the closing Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on pastoral challenges facing the family.

The origins of the Pope Paul VI Institute trace back to 1968, and the issuance of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae. The highly controversial letter is best known as a reaffirmation of Church teaching on the issues of marriage, family life and birth control. The letter also included a lesser-known appeal to scientists, doctors, and health care professionals, urging them to seek solutions that “are in accord with faith and right reason.”

The former Pope’s unapologetic defense of the Church teaching’s on the dignity of marriage and human life, and the call to help find medical and scientific answers to problems facing women and couples resonated with the young Thomas Hilgers who, at the time, was a senior medical student at the University of Minnesota.

“It was like he was talking directly to me,” Hilgers says, recounting his experience with the Letter. “It changed my life.”

Almost immediately, Hilgers began conducting research that eventually led to the development of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology, two groundbreaking technologies in reproductive health care. These technologies currently serve as the cornerstones of the Institute’s outreach efforts, which serve thousands of women and families on six continents.

The growth of the Institute since its founding in 1985 has been remarkable. Today, the Institute has a medical clinic in Omaha, Nebraska that offers obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive medicine and surgery for individuals needing regular or high-risk care, as well as a national women’s hormone laboratory and a nationally accredited reproductive ultrasound center.

The Institute also coordinates a variety of educational programs for doctors and other medical professionals, clergy, as well as lay men and women from all over the world. Its recent education program, for instance, which was held this past April, attracted 116 students from 20 different countries and 32 states. Last year, the Institute held a two part education program in Mexico City. A few years ago, a similar program was held in Poland.

The October beatification will put an exclamation point on a year that has been one of the most special in the Institute’s short but remarkable existence. Earlier this year, one of the Institute’s strongest supporters, Pope John Paul II, was canonized a saint.

“I never imagined back in 1968 that I would be someday be a part of this great man’s legacy,” says Hilgers of Pope 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.”

Thomas W. Hilgers MD is the director of the Pope Paul VI Institute and an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in reproductive medicine and surgery.

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Thomas W. Hilgers

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