By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
If you added up the years of wedlock represented by the couples at the Sept. 18 Mass celebrating 50 or more years of marriage that number would exceed well over 2,500 years of love, commitment, and fulfillment of sacramental vows. That’s because not only were many couples there at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception celebrating the vows they took in 1972, but also the vows that many of them took in the 1960s and the 1950s.
The evidence of staying together in sickness and in health was obvious among the couples. Some were accompanied by family members, some arrived with one or both of the spouses using canes or walkers, and a few rode in wheelchairs while their loved one pushed them along. In sweet demonstrations of celebration, some even wore corsages or boutonnieres, reminding them of their special day so many decades ago.
All the couples were acknowledged by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki who gave “thanks to Almighty God” for the opportunity to celebrate the annual Mass hosted by the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. The Mass was concelebrated by Vicar General Msgr. David Hoefler, whose own parents, Deacon Ben and Leona Hoefler, were at the Mass.
One of those couples who were married in the early 1950s were Fred and Rita Greenwald, long-time members of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Springfield. The couple raised seven children at Cathedral and saw all of them attend and graduate from the grade school. “Most of our children worked here at Cathedral (while growing up) and several of them were married here,” Rita said. As for their 71 years of marriage, Rita says she believes couples just must put their minds to it. “It takes work,” she said. “But we are still here!”
Another couple, Jim and Pat Nevins from Our Saviour Parish in Jacksonville, were at the Mass to celebrate 66 years of marriage. The couple, who have four children and eight great-grandchildren, gave their own good advice. “Never go to be angry,” Pat said, to which her husband, Jim, added, “Pray together before you go to bed. That way you can’t go to bed angry. It doesn’t work that way.”
In his homily Bishop Paprocki spoke about the sacrament of marriage and how long-married couples are mentors to others. “Today I want to step back with all of you to that life-changing exchange at your own marriage. I invite each of you to recall that moment, that day, that Mass — to remember the joy and grace that came as you made that vow to God together,” he said. “You have all lived out those promises for 50 years or more, promises to be faithful, to love, to honor.
“Today I want to thank you personally for your witness to the world, to the Church, and to me, of fidelity in your vocation. Holy marriages are a great reminder and inspiration to the people of God as we see how you have fought for your marriages day by day, through good and bad, sickness and health, carrying together the sorrows and joys of giving your lives in commitment to one another.
“How happy we are to know and love you,” he said, “to see your strength and commitment, to see the fruit and beauty of the sacrifices that your married love has entailed, to have before us your witness of what lasting forgiveness, patience, gratitude, and commitment look like.”
Photos by Diane Schlindwein