“For me, hearing Janet Smith will be like seeing a rock star or movie star,” said Angel Statz, a certified natural family planning instructor for the St. Cloud Diocese.
Smith, a speaker, author and editor who serves as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family, will present the keynote address at the upcoming Catholic Women’s Conference (see box).
Smith also holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
Statz first learned about Smith in 1999 through her CD “Contraception: Why Not?” The information on the CD helped Statz seek a healthy marriage, which ultimately led to the birth of a son, David.
“At that time I lived in Japan with my then-husband who was stationed there. We were in a dysfunctional relationship, but I didn’t want to divorce,” Statz said. “I had spoken with a priest, Father William Muhm, and went to Mass to figure out what I should do.
“That day Father Bill’s homily was on natural family planning. I began to understand it,” Statz said. “Suddenly I had this inkling that my marriage wasn’t valid, that it wasn’t rooted in God and that I wanted to make changes in my life.”
After Mass, Statz took home a CD by Janet Smith that was being offered to couples. She listened to it, again and again.
Encouraged by the information, Statz began to take small steps, going to confession and working with a counselor. She took a stand — to be open to life by practicing NFP, seeking joint marital counseling and getting help for alcoholism.
Her then-husband declined.
“That led to our separation and, though I was conflicted about the relationship, me moving back to the United States,” she said. “Here I received a lot of support through the church, a Catholic counselor and a divorce-care support group.
Even before the divorce came through, I pursued an annulment, going over each question with the priest. I wanted to see if the marriage was valid. And I wanted healing.”
She met Ben Statz through Ave Maria Singles. They corresponded and talked by phone. They decided to meet at an EWTN conference. They hit it off and she flew to meet him and his children in Minnesota. They married the following September, in 2006.
“It was wonderful to be with someone open to life,” she said. “We planned on having lots of kids. Going into this marriage, I knew about NFP, having researched it for a human sexuality course for my master’s thesis.”
After a year of hoping to become pregnant, they realized they were dealing with infertility, again using information from her research into NFP. Consulting with physicians, the couple learned Angel had an ovarian cyst and fibroids. One doctor wanted to remove her ovaries.
“Instead I preserved my fertility, and because of my research, I knew there was a better choice,” Statz said. “I was referred to Dr. Michael Cady from Crosby, Minnesota … for a second opinion. He was optimistic that laparoscopic surgery could remove the cyst, leaving my ovary intact.
“During the pre-op, they confirmed I was pregnant,” Statz said. “We postponed the surgery until after I delivered, and the pregnancy itself resolved the cyst — it didn’t need to be removed. I carried our son David to term.”
A year later the fibroids were removed. Since then, the couple has conceived but lost three babies to miscarriage.
“David is the only child we have had [together]. If I had gone with the other doctor, we would not have him. He wouldn’t be here if not for NFP,” Statz said.
The Statz family, including David, age 9, worship at St. John Cantius Parish in St. Cloud.
“And I never thought I’d be able to hear Janet Smith speak live. Maybe after the conference I’ll be able to give out her CDs, like the ones that were given to me.”