Bowlus couple honored with Humanae Vitae Award

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

When Margie and Arnold (Punky) Benusa attended a one-day marriage course at St. Catherine University in St. Paul before their marriage in 1974, it was the first time they ever considered how they would space their family. A couple at the course talked to them about natural family planning and the Benusas were interested in learning more.


Margie and Arnold Benusa, pictured here at their recent 40th anniversary celebration. (Photo submitted)

“Because I was a nurse, I knew about other forms of contraception, but Punky said he didn’t want me to use any potentially harmful options,” said Margie, an LPN at the Family Medical Center in Little Falls.

The couple has not only been using NFP their entire married lives, but Margie also became an instructor to help teach other couples how to successfully use the method.

“God gave us this information to help him in his mission,” Margie said. “God chooses us to bring forth new life. We are co-creators with him. It shows us how marriage is a sacrament and a sign of God’s love.”

That is part of the reason the Benusas are this year’s recipients of the Humanae Vitae Award. This honor, presented annually, is given to a person, or in this case, a couple, who shows courage in promoting the teachings of the “Humanae Vitae,” the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and released in 1968 regarding human life and sexuality.

The Benusas will be recognized at a special Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler on Thursday, July 23, at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral Crypt in St. Cloud. A reception will follow.

Strong witnesses

Mary Beth Bontjes nominated the Benusas for the award because, she said, “together they have faithfully witnessed and worked to promote NFP for the past 35 years.”

Bontjes, also an NFP instructor, met Margie 15 years ago.

“I am reminded of Margie’s love and respect for life and how God had intended it to be,” Bontjes said. “Margie and Arnold have raised their three children in their Catholic faith and have demonstrated their faith in their daily lives.”

Bontjes says that the Benusas have been vocal in their belief that potentially harmful methods of birth control are “not something they support” and that is “something that is very difficult to take a stand for in our culture today.”

The couple, members of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Bowlus, have been visible in the community in various ways — staffing NFP booths at health fairs and expos and actively participating in the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life pro-life dinner in their community.

“We are sharing God’s good news,” Margie said. “We feel it is too good of news not to share. God gave us these signs and enabled us to space our families with this information. It takes self-control and motivation to work. It is also important that the couple works together. It also takes a lot of prayer.”

The couple says prayer has been the cornerstone for them, and they emphasize that aspect whenever they can.

Tiffany Threlkeld and husband, Will, had tried other methods of family planning but weren’t really satisfied with their options. After having their fifth child, they met with Margie.

“She was very open and welcoming,” Tiffany said. “It can be a sensitive subject but she made us feel comfortable.”

Afterward, Tiffany said she spent a lot of time praying about whether or not NFP was right for their family. “Prayer was a big part of our decision,” she said. “I believe God has given us a means to plan our family with NFP. It was a very spiritual moment in our lives. It has helped us grow in our marriage and our faith.”

Helping the cause

How does Punky fit into all of this? He says he is the “support staff.” Besides caring for their children while Margie was teaching courses, he was also instrumental in securing and donating materials for the local NFP office located at the Unity Specialty Center where Margie and others teach.

“Together, Margie and Punky frequently found a way to fill a need in our local office,” said Cathy Bahmer, another NFP instructor. “One look around the office and you see tables and chairs, Xerox machine, projector, laptop and VCR — all donated and provided.”

Bontjes said the Benusas’ example has impacted her own faith.

“Margie and Arnold have demonstrated their love of life by having a family and living through struggles without losing faith in God,” she said. “They work with, and have faith in, his plan for them. This is a wonderful example that has affected my life.”


NFP Awareness Week

NFP Awareness Week is July 19 to 25. The theme of this year’s national education campaign is “All Natural! Natural Family Planning: Good for the body. Great for the soul!”

The dates highlight the anniversary of the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (July 25) which articulates Catholic beliefs about human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood.

To learn more about the methods of NFP offered in the Diocese of St. Cloud, visit Or visit the NFP section of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website at: