Dr. Chris Stroud Lives out His Faith, Finds Success

Dr. Chris Stroud

Dr. Chris Stroud

As a practicing OB-GYN and a recent convert to the faith, Dr. Christopher Stroud of Fort Wayne, Indiana knew the Catholic Church’s teaching that contraception was morally wrong, but he did not fully understand why. This all began to change one day after attending confession.

“As I was confessing my sins, I sort of mentioned in passing that I was an OB-GYN and prescribed contraceptives,” Stroud says. “But I suddenly understood the seriousness of this when the priest placed his hand on my leg, gave me a concerned look and said I had to stop.”

At the priest’s referral, Dr. Stroud met with a fellow local physician, Dr. Patrick Holly, who suggested that the two of them read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae together.

Stroud recounts reading Humanae Vitae as a turning point for him as an OB-GYN. “Pope Paul VI expressed so clearly and beautifully the Church’s position on reproduction and other matters. Like a lot of Catholics, I knew the Church teaches that contraception was objectively always seriously wrong, but did not know why. He did such an amazing job of presenting the union between a man and woman as holy. Humanae Vitae is so clear on these matters and it suddenly made so much sense.”

At the urging of Dr. Holly, Stroud looked into the Pope Paul VI Institute and its medical consultant education program, to which Stroud applied and began attending in the fall of 2012.

It did not take long for the Medical Consultant program to make a profound impact on Stroud.

“I had made the decision to follow Church teaching. I was going to contact my patients and let them know that as of the new year, I would no longer prescribe contraceptives nor make referrals for sterilization,” he said. “But after the first day at Education Phase I (EPI), I called my wife and said, ‘I am not going to wait until January; we need to do this immediately.’”

He said that his wife, as she did throughout the entire transition, was completely supportive.

With months of mortgage payments in savings, the Strouds made the shift.

“We thought we were done,” recalls Stroud. “But we also felt as if we had no choice.”

Instead, Stroud discovered that for every patient he lost, he gained three in return. His practice grew so dramatically that in September 2014, he and his wife, a certified nurse-midwife, opened their own medical practice providing NaProTechnology services. The new practice is growing fast with many patients driving long distances to receive what Stroud calls “faithful, authentic, effective fertility care.”

“It seems that every turn, God seems to say ‘do more,’ and as I do, He rewards me,” Stroud says. “I have patients who come to us because they want a Catholic approach to their reproductive health, who want a disease-based approach to address their fertility challenges.”

Today, Stroud could not be happier with his decision.

“This feels more like a vocation than a job,” he says. “We pray with our patients before surgery. I’m frequently asked to give presentations and when I do, I tell the audience that they don’t have to choose between their faith and their fertility. I love to tell them there’s a better way.

“The research and programs of the Pope Paul VI Institute are so important. I will be indebted for all of eternity to Dr. Hilgers and the staff who are building a culture of life in the field of reproductive health care. They gave me a new career, a new vocation.”

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Pope Paul VI Institute Is Only Choice for Hope and Dan DeLuca

Hope and Dan DeLuca with their three boys.

Hope and Dan DeLuca with their three boys.

Like many couples, when Hope and Dan DeLuca had trouble conceiving, they found true healing at the Pope Paul VI Institute, but their need for healing did not end there.

“We married in 2004 and just could not conceive,” says Hope. “Our doctor at the time wanted to prescribe birth control, which I never really understood because we were trying to have children.”

It was then that they turned to the Pope Paul VI Institute and Dr. Thomas Hilgers who diagnosed the root cause of the infertility, an extreme case of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Following an ovarian wedge resection surgery, three years later, the DeLucas were expecting their first child in 2010.

“We chose to go with another doctor at the time to handle the pregnancy — not because we were not happy with the Pope Paul VI Institute, but because of our insurance coverage,” Hope said. “We thought that once we became pregnant, the challenges were over.”

However, an undiagnosed uterine infection posed a real threat of miscarriage and ultimately caused their son to be born premature at 25 weeks. He spent four months in the neonatal intensive care unit, underwent four surgeries, was ventilated for over two months, and suffered brain hemorrhages and a perforated bowl.

After the complications with their first pregnancy, the DeLucas again sought the services of the Pope Paul VI Institute to help conceive their second child. This time, however, they also turned to the Institute to handle the pregnancy: a pregnancy that bore some resemblance to the first when Hope again presented with symptoms of a uterine infection.

“I had symptoms at 10 weeks and again at 26 weeks, but Dr. Hilgers and Dr. [Kristina] Pakiz knew exactly what to do,” Hope recalls. “Two rounds of IV antibiotics relieved the symptoms, and we went the full term.”

Their third pregnancy also presented similar symptoms, but again Pope Paul VI Institute was able to address the infection.

“I get teary-eyed just thinking of the Pope Paul VI Institute,” says Hope. “When we finally got pregnant, we thought we were in the clear, but we never really were. We should have stuck with the Pope Paul VI Institute because they know what they are doing.”

Archbishop Emeritus Curtiss Continues Long-Time Support for Institute as Spiritual Director

Archbishop Emeritus of Omaha, Elden Francis Curtiss

Archbishop Emeritus of Omaha, Elden Francis Curtiss

The Pope Paul VI Institute is on the front lines in the fight against a culture of death that is continuing to pervade every nation and community across the globe. Fortunately, the Institute is well-supported in this fight, and among its strongest supporters is Archbishop Emeritus Elden F. Curtiss, former Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Institute’s current Spiritual Director.

In this role, Archbishop Emeritus Curtiss celebrates mass several times each month in the Institute’s Chapel of the Holy Family and also helped to develop the Institute’s impressive Bishops Advisory Board. The Board, which is comprised of cardinals and bishops from throughout the world, including Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Raymond Burke, as well as Archbishops Samuel Aquila and George Lucas amongst others, provides spiritual support to the Institute and its unique mission.

For Curtiss, serving as the Institute’s Spiritual Director is an extension of his longtime support for the Institute, which dates back to his time serving as Bishop for the Diocese of Helena, Montana.

“I received a letter from Pope Paul VI Institute in the early 1980s, and here was this organization that was truly responding to Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and its appeal to medical professionals,” Curtiss recounts. “The Institute and its mission had tremendous importance, and this was immediately apparent to me.”

After he was named Archbishop of Omaha in 1993 by Saint John Paul the Great, his support of the Institute would continue. It was during his time as Archbishop when Curtiss received further confirmation of the Institute’s unique contribution.

“Pope John Paul told me that the Institute gave him ‘great hope for the future’,” says Curtiss. “While I knew the Institute was doing great work, to hear it directly from the Holy Father was special.”

The future of the Institute and its mission is indeed cause for hope, according to Curtiss.

“It did not have a lot of support in the beginning, but Dr. Thomas Hilgers’ groundbreaking research has not only proven itself effective in pinpointing fertility cycles, but it is also gaining acceptance amongst young medical professionals who recognize the harmful aspects of a contraceptive approach to reproductive health care.”

“Pope Paul VI Institute does not take shortcuts in its treatment,” he says. “It seeks to address the real causes and always, children are important to us — they are not secondary.”

Pam Yaksich Finds Fulfillment and Faith at Pope Paul VI Institute

Longtime Pope Paul VI Institute employee Pam Yaksich.

Longtime Pope Paul VI Institute employee Pam Yaksich.

For longtime Pope Paul VI Institute employee Pam Yaksich, working at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the better part of the past 30 years has had a tremendous impact, both professionally and spiritually.

After having graduated from Creighton University in Omaha with a degree in Biology in 1984, Pam Yaksich was attending a banquet where she heard a young Doctor discuss his pro-life research. As a scientist and a person of faith, Pam was intrigued.

“I didn’t even know that there was such a thing,” Pam recounts. “But I knew I had to find out more.”

Shortly thereafter, she reached out to the young Doctor, Thomas Hilgers, who would eventually hire her as a research assistant first at the former St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, a role she would maintain when the Pope Paul VI Institute opened its doors in the fall of 1985.

“It was so exciting to work with Dr. Hilgers back then, and his approach was so visionary,” she says.

In 1993, Pam left the Institute to accept a job as a science teacher at a Lutheran High School where she later became its principal. Twelve years later, in 2007, she again reached out to Dr. Hilgers who was in search of an executive assistant, a role that includes a range of responsibilities from human resources, to credentialing for the Institute’s doctors, to some building administration.

Having been with the Institute in its early days, Pam has seen some dramatic changes at the Institute since it all began 30 years ago.

Pam at the end of the seventh Educational Phase in 1984.

Pam at the end of the seventh Educational Phase in 1984.

She shares, “In our early days, our education programs would attract about 20 students, and we were excited if even one of those attendees was a physician. Now, our education programs have up to 100 per class, and it is not unusual for half of them to be doctors.”

One of the most incredible changes Pam has witnessed while working at the Pope Paul VI Institute is her own personal conversion to Catholicism. A former Lutheran, Pam cites the Institute and its day-to-day witness as the impetus for her conversion.

“When I first started here, I had a tremendous appreciation for the fact that Pope Paul VI Institute did not run from its Christian values,” she recalls. “And I saw the way the Institute treats its patients, and the courage in practicing its faith holistically in the marketplace. I started attending mass in the chapel and eventually felt that heartfelt call to convert.”

As for the young Doctor whose research compelled her to seek employment with the Institute?

“He’s the real deal,” she says. “Over the past 30 years, he has had a lot of reasons to give up … being a pioneer is never easy, but I have seen the fruits of his faithfulness and hard work firsthand and, truly, to do what he has done here is amazing.”

Following God’s Path and Rejoicing in the Journey

Dr. Amie Homes

Dr. Amie Homes

Amie Holmes, MD, OBGYN, NaPro Fellow

My path to the Pope Paul VI Institute has not been an easy one, but it has been filled with blessings. I decided to become a NaPro surgeon when I was in medical school. I had started attending RCIA with my (now) husband, Jon, who was also a medical student at the time. I decided to convert to Catholicism during my second year of medical school. Although I was drawn to Obstetrics and Gynecology, when I decided to become Catholic, I thought “well, that makes my decision easy, I will just become a surgeon” (in order to avoid all of the ethical dilemmas present in the field of obstetrics and gynecology). Well, God had another plan as he planted me as president of the International Health Club and sent me to Cuba and Puerto Rico for a “Women’s Health” experience. In a valiant effort to help me follow the right path, Jon discovered NaPro and helped me to make arrangements to attend EP1 and 2 during my fourth year of medical school. I spent a few extra weeks with Dr. Hilgers after EP2. The care that the patients received at the Pope Paul VI Institute was outstanding and I decided to pursue residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology so that I could become a NaPro Surgeon.

Well, marriage, babies and life happened. I didn’t make it to the Pope Paul VI Institute for my fellowship as quickly as I would have liked to. We matched into residencies that were more than an hour apart. We purchased a home half-way and I was able to commute until my third year of residency, when my program merged and my commute doubled. After a several months of struggling with a long commute on top of an 80+ hour work-week, a complicated pregnancy and a financial crisis, I decided to resign and let my husband complete his residency. This was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but I had a deep-seated trust that the Lord would provide. Later that week, I was offered a job as a general practitioner in an urgent care. I spent two years working in urgent care where I gained an appreciation for primary care and grew tremendously in my professional approach to medicine and scope of care. When Jon graduated from his surgical residency, an OB-GYN residency position opened up in Fort Worth, Texas. I was offered the position so we packed up the family and moved to Texas for 18 months. Jon took a position as a surgical hospitalist in California (our original and future home). He has been able to spend one to two weeks per month with us but his absence has been both a challenge and a sacrifice. I successfully completed my OB-GYN training in Texas and was extremely happy to accept a fellowship position at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

Looking back at the tumultuous course of my training, I see that we have been blessed by good fortune. I have had the opportunity to interact with countless co-workers, friends, neighbors, churches and patients. Our lives were enriched with the experience of living in different states and climates. My experience thus far in the Pope Paul VI Fellowship has made all of the challenges to get here worth the while. The office staff is amazing: they start every day with prayer and are extremely supportive. Dr. Hilgers, Dr. Keefe and Dr. Pakiz are excellent teachers and mentors. The patients travel from across the US and even across the globe to receive treatment. The surgical training is state-of-the-art and focuses on minimally-invasive laparoscopic techniques and robotic surgery. Most notably, the patients are treated as unique individuals and a true effort is made to restore them to health. The deliveries that I have been involved in are true “miracles” that are celebrated. Every patient is treated with dignity. I did not have much “pro-life” support during my residency training, so my experience in fellowship has been incredibly rewarding as I witness compassionate care daily. I am so thankful for this opportunity and look forward to practicing NaProTechnology in California where I plan to start my practice after I complete my fellowship.

Couple Find Hope, Healing and Faith at Pope Paul VI Institute

Sebastien and Genevieve Giraud

Sebastien and Genevieve Giraud point to their home of Mauritius on the map at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

From the Winter 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

In the 30 short years since it was founded, the Pope Paul VI Institute has been building a culture of life that has extended well beyond the boundaries of its headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. The Institute’s reach is reflected in many ways, but it’s perhaps most evident in the men and women who travel hundreds and thousands of miles to Omaha each year in order to receive the healing and hope that Pope Paul VI Institute so abundantly provides.

Such was the case with Sebastien and Genevieve Giraud, residents of Mauritius, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, situated just east of Madagascar, known most prominently as the former home of the now-extinct Dodo Bird.

Suffering with infertility, the Girauds were being urged by local physicians towards methods that conflicted with their religious beliefs. Strong in their faith, they did what many Catholics would do: they conducted a Google search — seeking a patron saint for infertility — and were drawn to the story of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the 20th Century Italian woman who demonstrated steadfast courage and faith in the face of a difficult pregnancy that would claim her life.

After signing up for the St. Gianna Center’s online mailing list, the Girauds were soon contacted by a representative of the site who, aware of the couple’s infertility issues, mentioned the work being done through the Pope Paul VI Institute.

Despite some initial skepticism, the Girauds visited the Institute’s website where they were captivated by the testimonials of former patients. “We thought ‘wow here is a place that heals the root causes of infertility’,” said Sebastien. “We knew then that we needed to contact the Pope Paul VI Institute.” After submitting bloodwork and a follow-up laparoscopy, Genevieve would be diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful condition that often results in infertility.

Like many couples suffering with infertility, the Girauds were told repeatedly that in-vitro fertilization was their only option for pregnancy. The Pope Paul VI Institute offered a different option — using state-of-the-art robotic surgery, Dr. Hilgers successfully treated the conditions that caused her infertility (endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and blocked fallopian tubes).
For Genevieve, the Pope Paul VI Institute and Dr. Hilgers offered healing and a rare doctor who represented the best in medicine and practice, one who, according to her, “truly respects the Hippocratic Oath.”

While the Girauds found healing at the Pope Paul VI Institute, it was faith that has left the most indelible impression on the couple.
“We knew that the Pope Paul VI Institute was a Catholic organization but to see Dr. Hilgers and the staff say a prayer before surgery or to have the nurse hand me a rosary … these brought us closer to God,” said Genevieve. “Not only this, but our story has provided a witness to those around us and it is bringing them closer to God, also.”

From Poland to Omaha: Father Jay Offers Support and Enlightenment

Father Jay and Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers

Father Jay and Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers

From the Winter 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

The Pope Paul VI Institute is proud to maintain a large network of resources that extends even intercontinentally. One such resource is Father Jarosław (Jay) Szymczak, PhD, from Lomianki, Poland, a small town on the outskirts of Warsaw. Father Jay serves as Chaplain for the Institute’s EP I and II programs and as Retreat Master for the I + You = We Program, one of a cycle of Love and Life Programs for married couples (which he co-developed in Poland) that fosters the development of marital relationships amongst couples.According to Father Jay, the program “is addressed to believers and non-believers, giving them six simple steps leading to a life in unity.”

In an age when marriage and sexuality are attacked on many fronts, Father Jay has dedicated his work to helping couples form marriages that meet God’s vision for the family and to enlighten couples regarding Catholic sexual ethics. Father Jay is a consecrated priest of the Secular Institute of Consecrated Life Holy Family in Poland. He holds a doctorate of theology in marriage and the family, is a lecturer at the Faculty for Studies on the Family at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Lomianki and is a chairman of the Family Support Foundation, which develops the Love and Life Programs and offers them worldwide.

While Omaha is a long distance from his native Poland, Father Jay has found a home at the Pope Paul VI Institute. The opportunity to work with the Pope Paul VI Institute is one that Father Jay cherishes. “I have fallen in love with Pope Paul VI and his landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae,” says Father Jay. “The Pope Paul VI Institute is a direct result of the Blessed Pope Paul VI’s work and his call to medical professionals to seek solutions that promote life. I am so honored to have the opportunity to help the Institute answer this call.”
For more information about these programs, please visit www.love­andlifeprograms.org.

Profile of Paul Comeau, Long-time Board Member

Paul Comeau in front of the “Miracle on Mercy Road” in Omaha in 2014.

Paul Comeau in front of the “Miracle on Mercy Road” in Omaha in 2014.

From the Winter 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

Longtime Pope Paul VI Institute Board Member, Paul Comeau, is proud to recount the Institute’s many accomplishments since he joined the Board of Directors almost 30 years ago. A former attorney for Union Pacific, Comeau was contacted by Dr. Thomas Hilgers in the early 1980s for help in finding a location for what would become the Pope Paul VI Institute.

“We were looking all over for a suitable location, and one day I was driving down Mercy Road, which makes so much sense now, and saw a lot with an old car wash. It had some weeds and needed some work, but it seemed like a perfect spot,” he recalls. “So I looked up the owner through the County Assessor, an Iowa farmer, who had long been considering selling the lot. A year and a half later we broke ground and the rest is history.”

When Comeau joined the Board more than 30 years ago, the Institute consisted of the Hilgers, Dr. Hilgers’ research, and a vision for an Institute that would meet Pope Paul VI’s appeal to medical professionals (as stated in Humanae Vitae).

“Here was this young doctor who was doing really amazing work, and there was nothing else like it,” says Comeau. “He works so hard but he is also so talented. I can’t imagine there are many people who would have the talent and commitment to build what he has over the past 30 years. To do what he has with the help of a few faithful donors is remarkable.”

The car wash formerly at 6901 Mercy Rd. in Omaha.

The car wash formerly at 6901 Mercy Rd. in Omaha.

The accomplishments Comeau cites in speaking about the Institute are many. It includes educational programs that have trained physicians and other medical professionals from six continents, an advisory board with bishops from the throughout the United States and the Vatican, the support of former popes and a medical clinic that “creates life.”

While Comeau is extremely proud of the Institute’s many accomplishments, he understands that the Institute has a lot of work left to do. “We are building a culture of life and it’s been against great odds,” he says. “But looking back, there is no doubt the Holy Spirit has helped guide our work.”

Historic Moment in St. Peter’s Square

IMG_0007Rome, Italy
October 19, 2014

“It was truly an emotionally, spiritually and uplifting experience to be present at the Beatification of our namesake Pope Paul VI. It was a special honor for me to read the English petition at the Prayers of the Faithful and to represent the worldwide FertilityCare and NaProTechnology providers and all those who live and love Humanae Vitae.”


Stories and interviews during our trip to Rome for the Beatification of Pope Paul VI

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