Diocesan News

Cambridge NFP Instructor Retires After 30 years

CAMBRIDGE (SNR) - It all started when Mark and Brenda Miller enrolled in Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes in the Diocese of Lincoln. Their instructor, Delores Graff, "asked or suggested or prompted" the couple to consider teaching the system to other couples.

"My husband and I both wanted to become practitioners, and he was going to be an instructor," Mrs. Miller recalled.

In the long run, however, the sparse population of the western part of the diocese meant it was only practical for one of the Millers to receive the training. And with a growing family plus a grain and livestock operation to run at home, the young couple saw a need to change their own plans.

"As our children got more demanding and the farm got more demanding… he bowed out and let me finish," Mrs. Miller said.

She became certified to teach the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System, a highly versatile method of NFP that enables couples to either increase or decrease their odds of conceiving a child.

The diocese paid for her training, sending her to the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha to learn from the system’s creator, Dr. Thomas Hilgers.

"Brenda was one of the first diocesan teachers to be trained at the Pope Paul VI Institute," said Michele Chambers, NFP education coordinator for the diocese.

Though NFP instructors are unpaid volunteers, they receive extensive training. Mrs. Miller remembers taking classes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for 10 days, just to get through the first level. And she returned for more training later.

She was certified by the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals (AAFCP), and maintained that certification throughout her 30 years of teaching, which required receiving continuing education, teaching at least 10 new couples every two years and following the standards of both the Creighton Model and the AAFCP at all times.

For the next three decades, Mrs. Miller traveled all over a large region to share the benefits of NFP with numerous engaged couples, to give chastity talks to teens and to provide personal instruction for couples who chose to learn more.

"There are some awesome people I met out there," she reminisced.

She was frequently able to draw on her personal experiences with NFP to help the couples she worked with.

"You can relate to the highs and the lows and the frustrations that sometimes come with it, and also the excitement that comes with it, the beauty of the communication that grows between the couple," she said.

The added communication and mutual respect that comes from using NFP helps build stronger marriages, according to Mrs. Miller.

"It makes couples more committed to each other. The divorce rate is substantially less than it is for couples using artificial contraception or sterilization," she said, adding that Natural Family Planning is "the Catholic Church’s best kept secret."

She admits that there are couples who aren’t that interested in NFP, attending only the required classes before their marriage. It was the couples who realized that NFP is healthy and effective who kept Mrs. Miller going.

"It’s just an awesome method to teach and an awesome method to use," she said. "God has built everything into our bodies that we need. My job was to teach couples how to read their bodies."

Mrs. Chambers said that Mrs. Miller’s enthusiasm was a benefit to all the other NFP instructors in the diocese.

"When other teachers were discouraged because there were not many couples who took advantage of using NFP, Brenda was always there to encourage them to keep trying, and to tell them that the Holy Spirit was in charge," Mrs. Chambers said. "Her common sense attitude and true concern for her couples were an inspiration to us all."

As Mrs. Miller was recruited by her personal NFP instructor, she sought to identify potential teachers among the couples she taught.

"Brenda was a master recruiter," Mrs. Chambers said.

Very recently, two additional Creighton Model instructors were found, and Mrs. Miller felt that it was time to step down.

A reception was held Oct. 8 to honor her contributions to the program. Various priests, NFP instructors, three of her five children and "about half" of her 13 grandchildren were able to come celebrate her work.

"I will miss teaching, but for the good of the program and for future couples, it’s time for me to retire. Get some younger blood in there," she said.

Not that she has bowed out completely. Mrs. Miller will continue to work with mother/daughter chastity programs and she’ll continue to speak with CCD students in the western part of the diocese.

"I’m still here," she laughed. "I’ll promote Natural Family Planning until the day I die. It’s an awesome gift."

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