Holy Family Center for Life – our history and our ministry

By Ed Walker

Natural Family Planning

Editor’s Note: The Message is pleased to welcome contributors representing the Holy Family Center for Life, who will be providing columns on Natural Family Planning.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Holy Family Center for Life. I’d say there is a greater chance that you have not, but we’ve probably touched someone in your parish with our ministry. With this article, I’ll introduce our organization and services; and in future articles, you’ll get to meet other members of the Holy Family Center of Life as well as some of our clients who have been impacted by our ministry.

Holy Family Center for Life was founded Aug. 12, 1998; and upon incorporation, was blessed by then-Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger. The official founders were Shawn Bender and Maureen Duhn. When Shawn and her husband, Pat, were preparing for marriage, they sought instruction in the Creighton model of Natural Family Planning from Maureen at St. Mary’s Hospital. HFCL exists due to an impromptu meeting of Dr. John Geerling, Monsignor Lindauer and Pat Bender, who expressed their encouragement for Shawn to become trained as an instructor. HFCL was officially affiliated with FertilityCare Centers of America on June 28, 2001, and has been offering Creighton Model services ever since. 

Holy Family Center for Life is a non-profit, self-funded ministry that is separate from the Diocese of Evansville. We collaborate with the diocese to offer our services to meet the needs of the local Church. We work closely with the diocesan Office of Family Life to make our services known and available to all Catholics and other people who may need them. We operate out of office space on the campus of Holy Redeemer Parish, which has generously donated the space. Our operations are funded largely by private donors, and it is our policy that no one shall be refused service because of inability to pay.

Today, we have 12 trained practitioners in the diocese with nine actively teaching. The active practitioners are Kelli Lovell, Emily Martin, Amy Miller, Janet Dilger, Yvonne Lueken, Sharon Wagner, Lori Spindler, Terri Ziliak and Karen Thompson. The other three practitioners are Shawn Bender, Lisa Cook and Christian Shockley. Our practitioners are located in Jasper, Fort Branch and Evansville, but teach virtually all over the United States. 

To assist our practitioners, HFCL is guided by a six-member board. Led by Dr. Bill Blanke (President), other members are Ed Walker (Vice-President), Lisa Cook (Secretary), Wade Lovell (Treasurer), Shawn Bender (founder) and Laura McKenzie. The past few years have seen a rapid growth in our services, and we are considering expanding the size of our board to better represent and guide these outreaches.

We started as a ministry to promote fertility awareness consistent with “Humanae Vitae” and Catholic moral teaching. In conjunction with the diocese, we offer a “Truth about NFP” presentation as part of marriage preparation for all couples in our diocese, in which we outline the Church’s teaching against contraception and the benefits to NFP. To that end, we offer Creighton Model FertilityCare Services, we have a practitioner who offers training in the Marquette Model and have added Symptothermal Method Facilitation, which is offered in Spanish by trained facilitator Yesica Miranda. 

Starting in 2019, we piloted presenting “Truth about NFP” with general information about the Church’s teaching to juniors and seniors in two Catholic high schools. We plan to expand this to all Catholic high schools in the diocese, if possible, in the future. Finally, we have partnerships with St. Vincent Evansville, the Diocese of Owensboro and Memorial Hospital in Jasper to offer introduction to Creighton Model Services. 

From a simple beginning, the Holy Family Center for Life continues to work to spread the Gospel of Life, the joy of family and the truth of the Catholic Church. The impact of our organization is due to the work of our amazing practitioners and volunteers. To inquire about any of our services, you can call HFCL at (812) 421-2030 or email hfclsignup@gmail.com.

Ed Walker is Vice President of HFCL, a member of Resurrection Parish and in diaconate formation for the diocese of Evansville.