Center aiming to promote NFP, family life & health
By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
WATERLOO — In 2011, while attending a Catholic conference, natural family planning practitioner Jamie Rathjen learned about a new model for women’s and family medical care called the Guiding Star Project. She was intrigued by its holistic, life-affirming approach to health care. Six years later, and through a lot of hard work and collaboration with others, Rathjen has helped to bring this new model of care to the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Guiding Star Cedar Valley, located at 220 Southbrooke Drive in Waterloo, opened recently with Rathjen as its executive director. The new center was established to facilitate cooperation between providers of women’s and family health services in one convenient, professional location.
Founded in 2011 by Leah Jacobsen, formerly a campus minister at the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Guiding Star Project is a non-profit organization that today has six centers across the country, with several more working toward opening. The Guiding Star Project is based on natural law and the belief that all human life has inherent dignity, and it works to bring together health care providers who are philosophically aligned with that worldview under a single banner to make their services more easily accessible.
“Guiding Star Project’s mission is one that promotes the beauty of our fertility, of pregnancy, of childbirth and of breastfeeding, all God-given natural functions,” said Rathjen. “Guiding Star promotes a culture that celebrates fertility and the children that come from it, instead of sensing these gifts as burdens.”
After discerning for years whether to start a Guiding Star in her area, Rathjen, a resident of Cedar Falls and a parishioner of St. Edward’s in Waterloo, met in May of 2016 with other like-minded individuals in her community to explore the idea further. She and the group decided to move forward and to take the necessary steps to start a registered center. They began providing services in January of this year.
“I definitely believe in divine timing, and it seems as though God is doing big things for the Cedar Valley in regards to promoting the culture of life through our service,” Rathjen said.
Jeff Keen, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Waverly, was one of the individuals that worked with Rathjen to help get the Cedar Valley’s Guiding Star center established. Today he serves as the organization’s board chair and treasurer.
Keen said the center, which does not refer for artificial birth control or abortion, fills an unmet need that existed in the community.
“Pretty much anyone you meet would be able to tell you where to go to get contraception or an abortion,” he said. “On the other hand, most people have no idea where to go for education about fertility awareness based methods for family planning.
“I believe there is a large population that has reservations about the care they are receiving through the modern health care system, but they don’t know where to turn.”
Rathjen agrees and believes their organization’s mission does a lot to especially build up women and to help counter what the modern culture says about womanhood.
“Today, society shares a very negative message about women and their bodies, that their fertility should be covered up and that children are burdens,” she said. “Guiding Star Cedar Valley is working to share a positive message about the female body, to empower women to be proud of the functions that only their bodies can do.”
The Guiding Star center in Waterloo is unique in that it moved into an already existing medical practice. Robert Pranger, a Catholic medical doctor who does not prescribe artificial birth control to his patients, but instead offers only natural family planning options, has partnered his practice with Guiding Star Cedar Valley. Dr. Pranger also serves as the medical advisor for the new organization’s board of directors.
Dr. Pranger offers full-spectrum medical care, while specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics. He is trained as a medical consultant through the Pope Paul VI Institute, which allows him to practice what is called “natural procreative technology” with women and couples who struggle with gynecological and infertility issues and treat them in a natural, holistic way.
“I envision Guiding Star Cedar Valley to further the culture of life in our community, and I am excited to be a part of this project,” he said.
The Fiat FertilityCare Center has also partnered with Guiding Star. Rathjen founded Fiat in 2012. Through it, she and other practitioners help couples learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare method of natural family planning.
Keen said the organization is working to also bring doula services, midwifery and lactation consultants to the space soon.
“We are primarily designed to serve women and families, but with the family medicine practice, the scope of ‘patients’ is broad. We started offering free community classes in January on birthing and newborn care. Once we are fully up and running, we will also provide child watch services,” Keen said. “The goal is to make it easy for anyone seeking life-affirming health care to find it.”
Because theirs is a non-profit facility, Rathjen said the doors of Guiding Star Cedar Valley are open to everyone.
“If payment is an issue, we will figure out an affordable way to assist them,” she said.
Guiding Star is not an initiative of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, nor is it associated with any particular faith tradition or religious organization, but its mission is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Linda Manternach, the director for the Office of Family Life at the Archdiocese of Dubuque, said of the new organization, “We are happy to hear about the many opportunities that Guiding Star is offering women and families. We wish them much success.”
Keen said, “Our board and volunteers certainly have a strong Catholic presence, but we believe that our message has a very broad appeal. You certainly don’t need to be religious to believe in a more holistic and natural approach to women’s health care.”
Guiding Star Cedar Valley will hold a gala on May 23, 2017, at the Rotary Reserve in Cedar Falls, which will help to raise funds for scholarships to assist low-income women and families in paying for their care at the center.
Anyone interested in learning about the banquet or other ways to support Guiding Star Cedar Valley should contact Rathjen at 319-464-6072. Rathjen also encourages people to learn more about their organization by visiting its website at https://guidingstarcedarvalley.org/.