Mary is a powerhouse; BCC was blessed to have her at the helm.
We thank Mary for the hours, intellect and passion she brought to teaching, training, and mentoring us, and for her decades of service to women and couples. We seek to emulate Mary's curiosity and tireless openness to improvement, as well as her wonderfully collegial approach, to our work.
A Tribute to Mary Finnigan
How do we describe a person? We can cite facts, like where the person was born and to
which family. We can name the person’s nationality and languages spoken, or list the schools
attended and jobs held. We can add likes and dislikes in an attempt to provide a fuller picture, but
will any of this reveal who the person is? I would argue that such facts, although important, can
only paint a partial picture of the person. It is not until we learn about the person’s values and are
able to see how love is expressed that we can move closer to gaining a sense of the real person.
Added to this, learning about a person’s relationship with God delivers a depth of understanding
that can barely be described because of its beauty. With this in mind, I will tell you a little
something about the beauty of Mary Finnigan because I have had the privilege of learning about
her faith, love, and generosity.
Mary Finnigan is a woman of deep Catholic faith and keen intellect. She has a passion for
doing what is right, working hard, and helping others embrace God’s truth. I first heard about
Mary when my younger sister worked at the Catholic high school where Mary was a teacher. My
sister recounted how good Mary was—compassionate, clear about what Catholics believe, firm
but not harsh with the students, and positive in all that she did. Mary, my sister said, is a woman
who is “all about” Jesus and the Catholic Church. Because my sister described Mary as a
courageous “modern-day missionary” (Mary was from Massachusetts and she was far from
home teaching in New Jersey), I thought I would like to get to know Mary as well.
Unfortunately, at the time I did not meet Mary in New Jersey. My wish would later come true,
however, when I began my work at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
in Washington, DC.
In the 1980s, about the same time Mary would become an NFP teacher for the
Archdiocese of Boston, I began my work at the USCCB in the Natural Family Planning Program
(then called the Diocesan Development Program for NFP). I first met Mary on a phone call after
she was named the NFP coordinator for the Archdiocese of Boston (1999–2017). I was soon
impressed by her passion for promoting Church teaching and the methods of Natural Family
Over the years I discovered that all my sister had said was true. Mary had a brilliant
intellect, a ready laugh, and a heart that loved the Catholic Church and God’s people. From the
time that she learned about NFP in 1983, during her engagement to her beloved James, followed
by her 1990 certification to teach the Archdiocese of Boston’s Sympto-Thermal Method (which
was born out of the New England NFP Association of happy memory), Mary devotedly taught
the Sympto-Thermal Method. She also championed outreach education in NFP, as well as
Catholic teaching that supports its use in marriage throughout her years in the Archdiocese of
During her tenure at the Archdiocese, Mary sponsored many educational events and was
not afraid to try new things to help married couples. She regularly contacted my office to consult
about new NFP research—some of which I had not heard about and learned first-hand from
Mary. She was among the few diocesan NFP coordinators who had her teachers learn the Two-
Day and Standard Day methods. Her sense was that they should have as many reputable tools as
possible in their teaching boxes that they could draw from to help their couples.
Mary was especially interested in the research of Dr. Richard Fehring and his colleagues
at Marquette University. Dr. Fehring had developed the Marquette Model of the Sympto-
Hormonal Method, which made use of a fertility monitor as well as the bio-signs of fertility.
Mary’s interest found her inviting Dr. Fehring and his team to her archdiocese. Eventually, it
yielded her incorporation of hormonal testing into the archdiocesan Sympto-Thermal method. In
2006, the Archdiocesan Sympto-Thermal method would change into the Boston Cross Check
Mary is easy to work with and someone who I could rely on for solid advice in the
dioceses. If I needed consultation about whatever issue, Mary was ready to help. And so, in
2012, when a position opened up on the U.S. bishops’ NFP National Advisory Board, I
recommended that Mary Finnigan be appointed. Because that advisory board is a working board,
I knew that Mary would “get the job done” and with lots of energy and laughter as well!
When Mary retired from her role as the archdiocesan NFP coordinator in 2017, the
Archdiocese of Boston signed over the rights of the BCC program to her. As we know, she
continued her work with BCC, and it is now represented by a group of teachers who have
inherited Mary’s devotion to God’s truth and the science of the natural methods as good for men
Retirement has not found Mary Finnigan sipping iced tea in a rocker. Although she may
be the first person to say that it is important to rest every now and then, Mary continues her
work for the Lord. In 2021, Mary represented the BCC at the first NFP leaders’ summit in
Baltimore, MD. In preparation for that meeting, I asked Mary what she was most proud of in
her NFP ministry: she replied that it was her outreach work in Haiti. In 2008, Mary was asked
to bring NFP to the Diocese of Cap-Haïtien. She collaborated with Maternal Life International
to adapt their NFP Bead System for use in Haiti. Over the next several years, Mary trained
Haitian couples and health care workers to both use and teach the Bead System. Today, the
Bead System continues to be taught in Haiti to several hundred couples a year. That is a
testament to Mary Finnigan’s effective strategizing. And that is seen in the continued
development of the BCC Method. With the refinement of their teacher training program, they
express a legacy of devotion and commitment to excellence that Mary represents.
Every now and then, I am asked about where the hope for NFP in the future lies. I
respond that it is in the people who answer “yes” to God’s call to minister to His people. Mary
Finnigan is a sign of hope that “all will be well.” She gives witness to generosity in answering
God’s call to promote His design of married love and the gift of life. Mary can only do this
because of her own deep love of the Lord God and His people. I am humbled to have the honor
of working alongside such a beautiful woman of faith—God bless Mary Finnigan!
Theresa Notare, PhD