As Catholics, we are called to live counter-culturally in nearly every aspect of life. Preparing for and living out the vocation of marriage within the Church is perhaps one of the greatest contrasts with modern societal norms. Phil and Dana Prusinski of St. John the Baptist Parish in Marshfield, having both grown up Catholic, knew they wanted their union to reflect Church teaching when starting married life together and growing their family.
Dana grew up with her family in Luxemburg, while Phil grew up in rural Rib Lake on a dairy farm. The pair both chose UW-Oshkosh for higher education, which is where they met. During their college years, both Phil and Dana began to really embrace their Catholic Faith. The local Newman Center allowed them Catholic fellowship and also opportunities to learn about the Church. This is where Dana learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP), a Church-approved method for achieving or avoiding pregnancy based on a couple’s fertility.
“As I learned about NFP from some of my friends, I knew it was the only option for me as a woman and as a Catholic,” Dana explains. “I was fortunate to be able to attend a class put on by the Newman Center on campus and meet with an instructor to discuss my charts and learn how to interpret them.” The knowledge proved invaluable, as she and Phil were married soon after.
The Prusinskis had been practicing NFP for two years when they were asked to become instructors within the Diocese of La Crosse to help other couples make the method a part of their marriage. Phil and Dana were convinced of NFP’s effectiveness, and as a nurse, Dana also knew of the risks for a woman and, ultimately, her family associated with artificial hormones and contraception. They decided to accept the challenge and became instructors in 2011.
But the instructor training
brought much more to the Prusinskis’ marriage than the skills to teach. “We started out using NFP more as a rule to follow, but didn’t really understand the reason for using it,” Dana shares. “Ironically, it wasn’t until we were asked to become NFP instructors that we actually looked deeper into NFP, the many methods available and the benefits of it. Through NFP, God certainly transformed my heart from one of using it as a rule to one of really trusting God in helping plan my family, having faith in His plan being far better than what I might plan, and being open to whatever He had in store for us.”
Phil adds that the practice of NFP in his marriage has been a process. “My biggest change has been going from a ‘we will use NFP to plan our family as we would like it to be’ to actually being open to God’s plan for our lives and true openness to life.”
“Through NFP, God certainly transformed my heart from one of using it as a rule to one of really trusting God in helping plan my family.” -Dana
“I think [the practice of NFP] has given us a great appreciation for life and increased our trust in God within our marriage,” Dana says. “It has helped us to communicate on a monthly, weekly and sometimes even daily basis on what our desires are for our family. It has helped us to know where each other is at, support each other when needed and also share in the joy of our growing family.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” she continues, “there was lots of doubt and questions along the way, but I have learned so much about myself, my husband, my Faith life and what we want for our family through NFP.”
Time and time again, the Prusinskis have been convicted in their use of the method for planning their family, especially as they learned that they are expecting their sixth child, due in October. Their new baby will join Emily (10), Phinehas (8), Benjamin (6), Isaac (4) and Elijah (1).
Dana continues to work in the field of nursing, currently as a nurse practitioner in cardiology. After some time in the medical field, Phil decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as a dairy farmer, also caring for their youngest boys during the day while Dana is working and the older children are attending Columbus Catholic Schools.
Phil and Dana continue to be NFP instructors for the diocesan marriage preparation program, helping other couples understand Church teachings, navigate charting and, above all, being a source of encouragement as their clients learn this method that has been such an integral part of the Prusinskis’ own marriage and growing their family.
In the book “The Four Keys to Everlasting Love,” authors Manuel P. Santos, MD, and Karee Santos, explain, “NFP encourages us to be stewards and ministers of our fertility rather than opponents and manipulators of it.”
Dana heartily agrees, saying, “NFP has really made me appreciate what a wonderful gift it is to be a woman. It has helped me to embrace my womanhood and fertility as a gift rather than an unfortunate side effect that I should suppress until I feel I am ready to have a child.”
Phil and Dana have embraced this method and mind-set, even in the struggles and even when it has not been easy. But those struggles and sacrifices are precisely what have helped their marriage to grow, giving it depth and richness. “I think love and sacrifice seem to be intrinsically intertwined,” Phil concludes. “How can you show someone you love them without making some sacrifices for them?”
While their lives have found a comfortable rhythm, the Prusinskis have found peace in trusting the Lord’s plans, whatever they may be. They encourage others to dig deeper into NFP to see how it can strengthen your marriage and your relationship with God. “Now that we have been using NFP for 10+ years of marriage, we certainly have evolved in our knowledge and trust in it. It is amazing how scientific it can be or how simple it can be depending on the needs of the couple.”
Would you like to help other couples learn about NFP and enhance your understanding along the way? Contact Christy Kitzhaber at 608.791.2673 or [email protected]
Story by Amy Eichsteadt
Published in the July/August 2021 Catholic Life Issue