Father Robert Harren was presented with the Humanae Vitae award at a special Mass and reception July 27 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The Humanae Vitae award is given annually by the Office of Marriage and Family to a person from the Diocese of St. Cloud who has demonstrated an extraordinary effort in promoting the teachings of “Humanae Vitae,” St. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical that explains God’s plan for married love.
“I’m honored and privileged to receive this award,” Father Harren said. “It’s such a great honor to highlight the importance of marriage and family life.”
Members of Father Harren’s family, former parishioners, friends and several fellow priests gathered for the event, which was held in the Cathedral’s lower church.
“In many ways [this event] is a celebration of love and life,” said Sheila Reineke, director of NFP for the diocese. “We come together and celebrate during NFP Awareness Week, around the anniversary of Humanae Vitae, and it’s just so lovely.”
Reineke called Father Harren a leader in the promotion of the teachings of “Humanae Vitae” and a blessing as he helped couples prepare for marriage through the years.
After the Mass and a short reception, the award was presented by Bishop Patrick Neary.
“This award is presented to Rev. Robert Harren for his dedication to living and supporting the wisdom of ‘Humanae Vitae,’” he read from the award’s inscription.
“Receiving this award reminds me of the first verses of Psalm 115,” Father Harren said in a short acceptance speech. “’Not to us o Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, because of your faithfulness and love.’ Those thoughts are my thoughts tonight, giving thanks to God for blessings received for the gift of human life and human love.”
This year’s award plaque is different from past years, Reineke said. It features an image of the Holy Family by Arizona-based artist Maria Diaz.
“I love it when we, as church, support good artists, giving us beautiful images that help us to grow in holiness,” she said.
Dawn Gohmann, who works with the diocese’s Fully Engaged program, has known Father Harren almost her whole life. He was assigned to her parish, St. Lawrence in Duelm, just after she was baptized. He was there for her first Communion, first reconciliation, confirmation, and her marriage to husband Lee.
During his homily at the wedding, Father Harren talked about keeping Christ as the light of their marriage and used the analogy of a flashlight, she said. On their 10th anniversary, they received a package in the mail from him containing a flashlight and a note.
“After 10 years he remembered that,” she said. “He’s just a gentle soul.”