In the 1990s, Dr. George and Joan Jay saw the courage it took for their parish priest to stand before the congregation and talk about the teachings of “Humanae vitae,” an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and released in 1968 explaining the Catholic Church’s teaching about human life and the reasons natural methods are best for achievement or postponement of pregnancy.
“Father Jerry Dalseth appealed to the congregation to consider being open to life and stressed ‘Humanae vitae,’” Joan Jay said. “It was very powerful for us. It reaffirmed to us how important it is to hear from a teaching authority, and that even though there will be people who won’t agree, he still has an obligation to preach.”
In collaboration with Kay Ek, who was then-director of the diocesan Office of Natural Family Planning, the Jays helped create the Humanae vitae Award program. Each year, the Diocese of St. Cloud presents the award to a person who has exhibited extraordinary courage in promoting the teachings of “Humanae vitae.”
“We just thought priests could get more encouragement and recognition for speaking the truth,” said George Jay said.
This year, the Jays have been selected as the 2017 Humanae vitae Award recipients and will receive recognition at a Mass and reception July 27 at 7 p.m. at Assumption Church in Morris. Bishop Donald Kettler will celebrate the Mass with the community.
Past recipients of the awarded include clergy members like Bishop George Speltz, Father Anthony Oelrich, Father Edwin Kraemer and Father Tom Knoblach. It also has been awarded to individuals and couples such as Robert and Mary Joyce, Don and Linda Christen and Mary Jo Ruhland.
“When I heard about the Humanae vitae Award, I knew without a moment’s hesitation that Dr. George and Joan Jay were more than worthy of the honor,” wrote Hayley Jay, the couple’s daughter-in-law, who nominated them for the award.
“With dedication that has spanned across decades and sacrifices in both the personal and the professional spheres, George and Joan are indeed a courageous example of living and preaching the beauty of ‘Humanae vitae,’” she wrote in her nomination letter.
Making a commitment
In 1991, George, who was working as a physician in Morris, made the decision to become an NFP-only doctor, meaning he does not prescribe, perform or refer for contraception, sterilization, abortion or in vitro fertilization, and he promotes NFP for achieving or avoiding conception. He also served as the medical director for the Office of Natural Family Planning.
During that time, George realized he needed to have somewhere to send patients to learn NFP. So he and Joan both became certified Billings method instructors, frequently teaching together. George also spoke at numerous conferences, authored articles and received national interest in his work.
But in 2002, George was struck with a devastating illness — postural tachycardia syndrome with an associated non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The couple had five young children and Joan needed to care for them and George so the couple stepped back from teaching NFP.
Later when George’s illness was more manageable, Joan became involved with the pregnancy center in Morris, now called
Options for Women.
“I just really wanted to be involved in pro-life ministry,” Joan said. “NFP is one of those beautiful and practical ways to live out the teaching of Theology of the Body, which is such a noble teaching.”
After seeing a need to help Spanish-speaking couples learn about NFP, in 2015, she decided to become recertified in teaching it and now works with a translator at the pregnancy center. Joan also has been instrumental in helping to get NFP materials translated into Spanish.
“I feel like that’s my mission for being there,” she said, “to help the Hispanic community.”
Looking to the future
The Jays want to make sure that more people consider becoming NFP teachers so they started a fund with The Catholic Foundation called the Sts. Anne and Joachim Fund. The hope is that it will help defray some of the costs of the courses.
“If there are not enough teachers, people can’t learn it. We want to help make sure those who want to learn it can afford to do so,” Joan said.
Though George still struggles with his illness, he knows his prayers and support make a difference. He is grateful to the priests and people who continue to encourage him to strengthen his prayer life.
Together, the couple continues to share their biggest pro-life ministry — through their five children and their spouses and their 13 grandchildren (and two more on the way).
“All of our children use NFP and four out of five learned from mom. What a privilege,” Joan said. “We are able to work with God to bring an immortal soul into the world. Even the angels can’t do that. We are so privileged to be able to do that. It is a beautiful gift. We are so thankful to be part of it.”