By D.F. Kratzer WEIRTON— Kathy Hirkala, director and founder of the FertilityCare Center of the Upper Ohio Valley, Inc., in Weirton, received the Outstanding Practitioner Award by the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals. The award was to be presented at the organization’s annual meeting in Rome June 11-13, but, as Hirkala was unable to attend, she received the award via mail. Receiving the Outstanding Practitioner Award “is a great honor,” “a humbling honor,” said Hirkala, who was “shocked, humbled” and “excited” to find she was being recognized for her work with the FertilityCare program. She continued by saying that she is “following in good footsteps,” noting that the late Nancy Botkin, another Mountain State FertilityCare practitioner, received the award in 1997. Hirkala, who is a parishioner of St. Paul Parish in Weirton, said she meets two of the requirements to receive the honor—to develop and run an accredited FertilityCare service program and to develop and administrate an accredited FertilityCare education program. As a practitioner for the program, Hirkala said, she is “able to teach couples about the Creighton (Model) FertilityCare System” and “teach women to chart their (menstrual) cycles.” The program helps couples get proper diagnosis and treatment in regards to infertility. Furthermore, she said, when a woman charts her menstrual cycle, she may pick up on abnormalities much quicker, allowing her to seek medical attention necessary for cancer, hormonal imbalances and a plethora of medical issues. Hirkala has seen many success stories, couples that have benefited from the program—“a lot of couples,” she said, “have been helped with infertility through NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology) and getting the proper diagnosis and treatment. In fact, I just recently had two couples who both had gone through infertility, both just recently delivered babies.” Hirkala provides programs primarily at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Weirton and has worked with parishioners of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wheeling, St. Michael Parish in Wheeling, Our Lady of Mercy Mission in Parsons and St. Paul’s. Additionally, she has worked with people from Morgantown, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio. As an educator, Hirkala teaches others to become practitioners and is in the process of overseeing her first class of five West Virginia students, who are currently in their second supervised practicum of the 13-month program. She is also part of the faculty of the national institute in Omaha, Neb., and is helping supervise students in a program in Indiana. FertilityCare is “a very effective method of natural family planning,” Hirkala said, and “I would like to see it be even more important to people. … For Catholics it is a moral way to plan their families. There is a lot of misconception about natural family planning and what the Church teaches in regards to that.” She continued by saying that FertilityCare adheres to the “beautiful” teachings of the Church. Hirkala expressed her gratitude “to the priest who first pointed me in the direction of the institute” and encouraged more priests to discuss FertilityCare and natural family planning. One homily, she said, can touch many lives—a statement of which she is an example. “I will continue to do everything I can possibly do” for FertilityCare, Hirkala said, wishing there were more of herself while discussing her plans to increase the number of FertilityCare training sessions in the diocese and goals to have a FertilityCare practitioner in every vicariate. “My heart and soul are into this very much,” she continued. “I completely believe in this program and what it can offer.” For more information about FertilityCare, contact Hirkala at 723-2227 or at email@example.com.