GREEN BAY — Nearly 70 couples married in 1971 were honored during a 50th wedding anniversary Mass celebrated Aug. 22 by Bishop David Ricken at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
“Fifty years of fidelity and marriage. God bless you,” Bishop Ricken told the couples at the beginning of Mass. “I hope you have a chance to have a big party, if you haven’t already.”
In his homily, Bishop Ricken noted that the second reading from Ephesians was appropriate for the special celebration. It included the verse: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
“I’m so happy to be with you here today,” he said. “We notice from all of the planning that’s gone on, the beautiful preparations gone into (the celebration), I think it says to you how much we value your ‘yes.’”
A commitment to 50 years of sacramental marriage illustrates that each couple has been devoted to each other “through thick and thin,” said Bishop Ricken. “On behalf of the church and the diocese, I want to say ‘thank you.’ At a time when people throw out commitments like it’s garbage, we need people like you, who say ‘yes’ and continue to follow through with that commitment.”
Bishop Ricken shared some numbers and statistics with the couples. He said the husbands and wives in attendance “represent over 3,000 years of marriage.” He also noted that:
- Thirteen of the couples still worship at the same parish in which they were married.
- Two of the couples were married at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
- Two diocesan deacons and their wives were among the couples celebrating their 50th anniversaries: Deacon Tom and Sue Mahoney and Deacon Pete and Toni Cheskie.
- The most popular month for marriages was May, followed closely by June.
Bishop Ricken said that Elisa Tremblay, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family Life and Pro-Life, asked the couples in an email to share any advice they had for newlyweds. He listed some of their responses.
- Have faith in God, attend Mass together and pray together.
- God first, then family, then work.
- Communication: Talk to each other, listen to one another.
- Maintain a good sense of humor.
- Honesty and trust.
- Work it out, don’t bail out.
- Endurance, perseverance, compassion. More give than take.
- Don’t go to bed mad.
“So, brothers and sisters, you know the cost of marriage and you know the joys of marriage,” said Bishop Ricken. “You know the fruits of marriage and you know the pruning that is marriage. And the church thanks you. Christ is surely very proud of you and he thanks you.”
At the conclusion of his homily, Bishop Ricken told the couples to sit quietly with their hands out and receive a blessing for 50 years. “The Holy Spirit wants to move and be more active to let you know he’s real and he’s grateful for all of the sacrifices you’ve made, especially in a world that dishonors covenant and commitment,” said Bishop Ricken. “Receive his gratitude. … Yes, you and I are giving thanks to God. Let him now thank you during this time of silence, touching your heart, touching your mind and soul.”
Before the final blessing, Tremblay told the congregation that the gathering was “an incredible witness to marriage.”
“We were blown away by how many people called and registered to attend,” she said. “Thank everybody who supported the Bishop’s Appeal and who made this event possible today.”
Following Mass, couples were invited to pick up a gift bag in celebration of their anniversary. Several couples told The Compass they were honored to be part of the celebration.
“It was fantastic,” said Dave Hansen, who married his wife Jane at Annunciation Parish in Green Bay on Nov. 6, 1971. They have been members there throughout their marriage. “Fifty years, and she was only 19 when we got married,” he said. “They said it would never last. They were wrong.”
“Fifty years is a long time and to have 70 couples here is awesome,” added Jane.
“I thought this was kind of awesome,” said Larry Mihalski. He and his wife, Karen, were married in the town of Chase near Pulaski on Oct. 16, 1971. They now attend St. Casimir Parish in Krakow.
“I was glad to be with the people who are from our era, 50 years,” he added. “It makes us happy to see that many people are still together.”
“It was a very emotional experience,” said Jim Gruber. He and his wife, Mary Ann, attend St. Margaret Mary Parish in Neenah. They were married on Aug. 21, 1971, in Virginia, Minn. “To have Bishop Ricken celebrate the Mass — he is just a very special, holy man.”
“It was heavenly,” added Mary Ann. “Bishop always does such a wonderful job, and we just felt so uplifted that the Holy Spirit was blessing all of us, especially after 50 years of marriage.”
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