Grateful diocese honors its ‘golden’ couples

Photo Caption: Vere and Ruth Sutton of St. Patrick’s Parish, Colona, renew their marriage vows, as do Paul and Therese St. Ledger of St. Mary’s Parish, East Moline, seen behind them.

By: By Tom Dermody

After renewing the wedding vows they professed 50 years ago not once but twice last weekend, Paul and Therese St. Ledger should be set for at least another century.

The St. Ledgers, members of St. Mary’s Parish in East Moline, were among nearly 100 golden anniversary couples who gathered with Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, on Sunday afternoon for the annual diocesan Mass in honor of those marking 50 years of marriage.

The celebration at St. Mary’s Cathedral had the feel of a wedding, with familiar hymns, readings, and the couples turning to one another during a renewal of vows that concluded with Bishop Jenky encouraging husbands “you may kiss your bride.”

For the St. Ledgers, the diocesan event took place on their actual anniversary weekend. The couple wed on Sept. 20, 1958, in St. Mary’s Church, Moline. Last Saturday, on their anniversary, they renewed their vows at a Mass at their home parish and were toasted at an open house. Then, on Sunday, they traveled to Peoria to join couples from around the diocese who also were married in 1958.

“We’ve been partying all weekend,” said Therese St. Ledger, showing off a new ring her husband had given her to mark the milestone.

“The bishop just kissed it,” she added with a smile.

Bishop Jenky, in fact, took time to share laughter and conversation with each of the couples at a reception following the Mass.
He repeatedly thanked the anniversary couples for their witness of Christ’s enduring love, calling them “living sacraments” who make Jesus present in their families, parishes, and the diocese.

In a homily given on the cathedral sanctuary steps, the bishop called the annual Mass “a moment for this diocese to thank God for who you are.”

He said he always looks forward to this event because it offers him the chance to see “the fruits of lives lived in commitment to the Lord, to one another, and to family.”

“Over and over again,” Bishop Jenky continued, “sometimes with a cross, other times in joy, your love has made Jesus present. . . . The love you have after being together for 50 years is truly precious to this church.”

Noting the Gospel reading describing Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, the bishop said “the local church honors you, we thank God for you, and we all look forward to the wedding feast of heaven.”

The annual Mass is sponsored by the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family. Tim Roder, director, and Terri LaHood, staff assistant, were lectors and later distributed certificates signifying the blessing Bishop Jenky bestowed on the couples.

At the reception, music from the 1950s era was played in the Holiday Inn City Centre ballroom as the guests of honor enjoyed conversation with family and one another, a light buffet meal, and of course, cake.

The St. Ledgers, in fact, sat with another couple also observing their own anniversary weekend. James and Patricia Dkekuskas, now members of Mary Our Lady of Peace Parish in Orion, were also married on Sept. 20, 1958, at St. Mary’s Church, East Moline.

Asked by The Catholic Post to share the secret of a lasting marriage, the anniversary couples in attendance cited several including prayer, forgiveness, common interests, and taking it one day at a time through life’s “ups and downs.”

“Each person has to go way more than 50 percent,” said Dr. Richard Flores, a member of St. Thomas Parish in Peoria Heights, after his wife, Dorothy, had answered “prayer.”

“We’ve been very blessed,” said Dr. Flores.

Those same words were echoed by Frank and Barbara Haertjens of Moline, whose 50th anniversary is this Saturday, Sept. 27.

“It takes prayer and faith in God,” said Barbara, to which her husband added “Amen.” The Haertjens have five children and 10 grandchildren.

“She’s a loving wife and takes good care of me,” was the tribute offered by Merlyn Hart to his wife, Martha. They are members of Immaculate Conception Parish in Monmouth.

Paul St. Ledger also had a practical answer to the question regarding secrets to a lasting marriage.

“I let her have her own way,” he said.

Is that true?

“Yes, he is very kind,” answered Therese, a trustee at St. Mary’s Parish in East Moline. “We compromised.”

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