Approximately 200 people from throughout the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois were in the pews of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the afternoon of Sept. 17, as Bishop Thomas John Paprocki celebrated the Mass for Couples Married 50 Years or More.
The annual celebration included a Mass, reception and an opportunity to have photos taken with Bishop Paprocki. It was attended not only by many couples who are celebrating 50 years of marriage this year, but others who had been married even longer. In some cases, children and grandchildren came along to celebrate with them.
In his homily, Bishop Paprocki spoke of the importance of choosing to forgive. He said all of the day’s readings pointed to “the need for mercy and forgiveness in a sinful world.” Of course, in marriage, forgiveness is of utmost importance, he said.
“In addition to the saints, I would go one step further and say that we who are gathered here today need to look no further than the couples in our midst who have been married 50 years or more for examples of the sort of forgiveness to which our Lord calls us as his disciples,” he said. “It is almost certain that throughout the half-century or more that you husbands and wives have been married that you have forgiven each other without putting limits on that forgiveness.
“My dear couples who we honor today, your example of forgiveness in marriage will teach others what it means to forgive out of love for another person. In doing so, you will most certainly lead others to do the same and lead them to a deeper understanding of what it means to be Christ’s disciple today.”
Following the homily the married couples were blessed by Bishop Paprocki and also renewed their commitment to one another. As a part of the commitment prayer they said, “Blessed are you, Lord, for in the good and bad times of our life you have stood lovingly by our side. Help us, we pray, to remain faithful in our love for one another, so that we may be true witnesses to the covenant you have made with humankind.”
The Mass for couples celebrating five decades or more together is what Carlos Tejeda, director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life, calls, “a wonderful celebration of life, love and the reality of God’s presence with us in the sacrament of matrimony.” He added, “The anniversary couples are such a delight to be with. Their witness to fidelity and forgiveness is priceless in our culture.”
Readings were given by Brother Anthony Joseph McCoy, FFSC and Victoria Dhabalt Compton, while Deacon Larry Smith proclaimed the Gospel. Patrick Hutt served as master of ceremonies.
Music for the liturgy was provided by several choirs, musicians and their leaders: Mark Gifford and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish choir; Jody Kienzler and the Blessed Sacrament Parish of Springfield choir; and Linda Younkin and the Christ the King Parish of Springfield choir.
The annual Mass and reception for long-married couples is arranged and hosted by the Office for Marriage and Family Life with the assistance of the Office for Divine Worship and the Catechumenate. It is funded by the contributions of the people of the diocese to the Annual Catholic Services Appeal.