On Sunday, Oct. 4 about 115 long-married couples and their guests joined together at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield as Bishop Thomas John Paprocki celebrated the annual Mass for Couples Married 50 or More Years. Not only did the couples who took part in the Mass receive certificates recognizing their long marriage, but they also attended a reception in their honor and many had their photo taken with Bishop Paprocki.
An additional 160 couples, who were unable to attend the Mass, received certificates as well. Of all those receiving certificates, 54 couples were celebrating 50 years of marriage this year, 134 were celebrating 51-59 years, and 75 couples were celebrating 61-69 years together. Moreover, 12 couples were celebrating between 70-76 years of marriage.
Concelebrating with Bishop Paprocki was Msgr. John Ossola. Father Brian Alford was the master of ceremonies. Deacon Larry Smith and Deacon Patrick O'Toole also participated in the liturgy.
In his homily, Bishop Paprocki spoke of the importance of marriage as "intended by God." "Every joy and blessing in your marriage has been the fruit of that decision to love, and every obstacle overcome, every issue resolved, has been because of the power of love that you said 'yes' to so many years ago," he said.
God instituted the sacrament of matrimony, Bishop Paprocki noted. "It is so important for us to recognize this dynamic of God's love for us, and in particular, for the love that he wants to exist in marriages. I do not mean in any way to discount the many years of hard work and sacrifice all of you have undertaken to get to the point that you are at today, but in the end, it's not about what you have done — it's about what God has done for you and through you."
Bishop Paprocki spoke of Pope Francis' visit to the United States and reiterated that a faithful witness of marriage is extremely important. "… your witness is badly needed in our world today as marriage and family life experience so many threats from within and without, as Pope Francis said when he visited our country just over a week ago," he said.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, has also commented that the tools that we have to confront these difficulties are beauty and joy, he said. "Your witness of 50 years or more of marriage are just that, beautiful and joyful expressions of the great gift of married love. Every person who has the privilege of encountering you is blessed with your gift, even without your ever saying a word to them.
"I thank you for the gift that you are to one another, to the church, to other couples, and to the entire world. You are a real sign of hope in our world because you point to something greater than yourselves — you point to love," he said. "And that love, which comes from God, will not be constrained, will not be limited, for in the end, love is the one thing that will remain, and your witness points to that truth in a beautiful way."
Music was for the Mass was courtesy of Fredrick Guzasky, director of music and liturgy at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. He led the musical prelude and Mass with his choir along with the choir from Christ the King Parish, led by music director Linda Younkin. Teresa Woodard was the cantor.
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 Worship and the Catechumenate. It is funded by the contributions of the people of the diocese to the Annual Catholic Services Appeal.