Dearborn couple launches service to teach increasingly popular natural family planning method

Lauren and Giovanni Vitale, members of Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, pose for a family photo with their children (from left) August, 3, Gianna, 8, Leo, 6, and Zeke, 9. The Vitales recently started a new ministry, Whole Mission, to teach the lesser-known Marquette Model of natural family planning and to connect couples with certified instructors. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Vitales connect couples with resources, instructors in Marquette Model, which offers easy fertility monitoring

DEARBORN — As a nurse, Lauren Vitale appreciated the extensive research behind the Marquette Model, a form of natural family planning (NFP) developed at the Marquette University Institute for Natural Family Planning in Milwaukee. 

As a wife and mother, she was thrilled with how simple it was to learn and put into practice.  

Natural family planning (NFP) is the practice of avoiding or achieving a pregnancy without the use of contraceptive drugs or devices. Compatible with Catholic teaching, natural family planning has been practiced and perfected by Catholic couples for decades, using various means to identify a woman's days of fertility and infertility. Couples discern each month through prayer and conversation whether they feel called to grow their family, or wait.

Lauren and her psychologist husband, Giovanni, took NFP classes when they were engaged, but after the birth of their first child, they were drawn to the Marquette Model, which uses 21st century technology to monitor a woman's fertility through biological signs. 

The couple liked it so much that Lauren took online classes through Marquette University to become certified to teach it. 

Now, Lauren is one of just 30 instructors in the world certified to teach the method, and in May, she and Giovanni launched a ministry to help other couples learn the benefits.

Their new venture, called Whole Mission, includes a web service to connect couples with Marquette Model instructors through a web portal. On the site, clients can learn more about the method and sign up for online classes.

The name comes from an excerpt from Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reads, “... the whole person and the whole mission to which human beings have been called will be taken into account, for this [mission] pertains not only to the natural and earthly existence of human beings but also to their supernatural and eternal existence.” 

Before Whole Mission launched, couples had to contact Marquette University directly for a list of instructors, then call each one for information about classes and pricing. 

Lauren and Giovanni Vitale say practicing the Marquette Model of natural family planning has brought them closer as a couple, inspiring them to help others realize its benefits.

Instead, Whole Mission takes the legwork out, allowing couples to connect directly with instructors of their choosing. Classes are offered throughout the week and bring together the medical and spiritual side of NFP for a full understanding, Lauren Vitale said. After the class, clients receive one year of personal follow-up with the instructor.

“The method is simple to learn,” said Lauren, who serves as clinical director of Whole Mission while Giovanni takes care of the legal, financial and administrative side of the operation. “Couples get started within two days of taking the class. Even so, clients have questions, which is why we provide unlimited follow-up in that year so they can be confident moving forward.”

To ensure Whole Mission's — well, mission — is aligned with the faith, Fr. Mario Amore, administrator of St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit, serves as a theological adviser. 

Eighty percent of Whole Mission’s clients are breastfeeding couples, who find the Marquette Method helps them navigate the hormonal changes that come with postpartum.

Elise and Michael Howe, members of St. John Neumann Parish in Canton, took a class with Lauren in May. The couple, who have a 4-year-old-son and a 6-month-old daughter, were looking for something different after struggling with another NFP method after their daughter's birth.

“Having two small children makes it difficult to get out of the house to learn something new,” Elise Howe said. “The convenience of the online sessions Whole Mission provides was such a blessing for us. We could take the class from the comfort of our home after putting the kids to bed.”

In addition to Lauren’s thorough and down-to-earth teaching style, Elise cites the follow-up services as one of the greatest assets of the service.

“We know from experience that NFP works best when working closely with an instructor,” Elise said. “To have the support of Lauren for any questions that arise has been incredibly helpful, and I know it will continue to be.”

NFP has been a source of strength for both the Vitales’ and the Howes’ marriages. Elise Howe pointed to the increased communication between couples who practice NFP, and the self-sacrificial love required to carry it out, as pillars. 

“This allows us to faithfully live out the Church’s teachings and remain open to life and God’s perfect will for our family,” Elise Howe said. “It required us to discern and listen to the Spirit’s promptings as to what the Lord might be calling us to in family life. As a result, regular conversations about our individual hopes and dreams for our family have improved our communications and strengthened our spirituality as a couple.”

Since she started teaching the Marquette Model in 2017, Lauren Vitale has instructed almost 300 clients in the practice. In the short time Whole Mission has been up and running, it has served 30 couples, including clients in India, Australia, Germany and Ecuador. 

The Vitales see Whole Mission more as a ministry than a business. Their goal is to provide the most up-to-date, sound research and to provide couples with the encouragement to live out their call to love within the vocation of marriage.

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsors Natural Family Planning Awareness Week in late July. 

To learn more about Whole Mission, visit For information about natural family planning resources from the Archdiocese of Detroit, visit