Story and photos by Ed Casey

Bishop John Barres spoke of the “prophetic wisdom” of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical letter on life, Humanae Vitae, during the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral on Sunday, July 22. As the document’s 50th anniversary is celebrated this week, Bishop Barres is releasing his own pastoral letter “The Supreme Gift: The Gift of Life,” which will be available in all parishes, as well as on the diocesan website in both English and Spanish here.

In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Barres looked forward to a week of great celebrations in the local and world-wide church including the episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Richard Henning on Tuesday, July 24 at St. Agnes. Additionally, he noted that it is Natural Family Planning Week in the United States, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

Bishop Barres in his homily said that, in some ways, the message of  Humanae Vitae is even more applicable in our secular culture today than it was 50 years ago. The real response we are called to, Bishop Barres added, must be founded in charity — living and speaking the truth of the Gospel and the perennial teaching of the Church on the value of human life from conception to natural death.


At the Mass, Bishop Barres introduced Dr. Paul Carpentier, medical director of the Gianna Center of Long Island for Women’s Health & Fertility, and members of his staff who were present and available after Mass to answer any questions and share information on the Gianna Center, which provides “preventive and specialized obstetrical and gynecologic care to women, honoring their dignity and the sanctity of human life.”

After mass, Dr. Carpentier and his wife, Suzanne, shared a story with Bishop Barres about their connection to Blessed Paul VI. When Suzanne was a young girl she received a small gold cross and chain blessed by the pope near the time of the release of  Humanae Vitae. She has worn the cross ever since and her devotion to the soon-to-be saint grew through the years. Later she would  meet her husband and give him the cross to wear when he took his medical board exams. He later graduated as a FertilityCare expert from the Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Carpentiers noted that this blessed cross was with them through their marriage, the birth of their four sons and the boy’s lives. The couple continues to be active in pro-life work, witnessing to the dignity of all life, born and unborn, accompanied by this special cross of Blessed Pope Paul VI.