Teresa of Calcutta addresses the crowd of thousands by video in 1993 at the opening mass of the 25th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae in Omaha, Neb.

One of the more daunting aspects of our work here at the Saint Paul VI Institute is that it sometimes may seem as if we stand alone in this battle against the culture of death. I am sure there are many times when you too feel this way.

As I mentioned in our summer edition of the Culture of Life newsletter, we are — to quote Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae — a “contradiction.” We stand against a mainstream medical community and a pervasive culture that has fully embraced and promotes at every turn the culture of death and its methods.

In recent years, I have found great edification knowing that while we may stand alone, we stand in very good company. This was especially the case a few years back when Pope John Paul II, a staunch supporter of the Institute, was canonized. And it is true again as we celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa. I am a strong believer that God provides special saints for special times.

Over the past forty years, we have seen the proliferation and widespread acceptance — and even celebration — of abortion, contraception, sterilization and in vitro fertilization. Through Mother Teresa and her work, we had a shining example of a person and a life that found value in every person. In fact, she said she saw in the sick, the needy, and the unborn, the face of Jesus. While small in stature, she always stood with courage against world leaders, countries, laws and the culture — both through her words and her actions.

Dr. Hilgers (right) meets Teresa of Calcutta in 1978.

I met St. Teresa of Calcutta in 1977 at the 10th anniversary celebration of Humanae Vitae in Melbourne, Australia. Fifteen years later, I extended an invitation to St. Teresa to provide the keynote address at the Institute’s 25th anniversary celebration of Humanae Vitae. Of course, you can only imagine my excitement when the then-Mother Teresa accepted the invitation to come to Omaha and provide the keynote at the Institute’s celebration event.

While an unforeseen illness prevented her from making the trip, she did address the crowd via a video recording. I regret that she was unable to attend the event, but her support for the Institute and its work is and continues to be a source of inspiration for us. I believe I said as much about St. John Paul the Great. As much as it may seem like it at times, we are not alone in this fight.

I ask that you share our pride, inspiration and strength knowing that we are not alone and we stand with some of the greatest saints the Church has ever known. We may be relatively small in stature, not unlike St. Teresa of Calcutta herself, but through our work, we are building a culture of life, a culture that appreciates life, and one that recognizes Jesus in the unborn, in women, in men and in families.

Today, the Saint Paul VI Institute serves men and women on all six continents. We provide the highest quality education, training, and medical services, and we have an infrastructure that is simply unparalleled among organizations that are with us in this fight.

When we started more than thirty years ago, we were a small organization with a simple but important mission. We were inspired by the words of Pope Paul VI, who in Humanae Vitae specifically urged medical professionals and researchers to seek out methods that are in “accord with faith and with right reason.” While our mission has grown tremendously, we continue to work from our small, but cramped, headquarters in Omaha and we continue to stand with the Church, its teachings and a strong desire to provide reproductive health care that exemplifies compassion and charity by protecting life and providing true healing.

As you know, our work here at the Institute is made possible through the generosity of men and women who understand that abortion, contraception, sterilization and in vitro fertilization are not acceptable forms of “health care.” With us, they see in the unborn and in hurting men and women, the face of Jesus.

During her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, the then-Mother Teresa told the story of a young boy who taught the one-day saint a “lesson” on giving. Rather than paraphrase, I have included below her exact words. “They heard in Calcutta, the children, that Mother Teresa had no sugar for her children, and this little one, Hindu boy four years old, he went home and he told his parents: I will not eat sugar for three days, I will give my sugar to Mother Teresa. How much a little child can give. After three days they brought into our house, and there was this little one who could scarcely pronounce my name, he loved with great love, he loved until it hurt. And this is what I bring before you, to love one another until it hurts, but don’t forget that there are many children, many children, many men and women who haven’t got what you have. And remember to love them until it hurts.”

From our past correspondence, you know that I don’t like asking for money but we rely entirely on the spiritual and material support provided to us by you, our supporters. I ask then, humbly, that you provide a gift that “hurts.”

Your support will help us extend our mission even more, building the culture of life and providing compassionate care to those who seek reproductive health care that is superior and always adheres to God’s design for human reproduction … that sees in the men, women and children entrusted to our care, the face of Jesus.

May God be with you in a very special way,

Thomas W. Hilgers, MD
Director of the Saint Paul VI Institute
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