Valentine feature: Newlyweds are of one heart and faith

Sara and Jared Woiwode aren’t making any big plans for Valentine’s Day this weekend. Everything they needed to say to one another about love they said in front of 250 members of their family and friends at St. Mary’s Cathedral two weeks ago when they got married.

“We’re actually going to be babysitting some of our favorite kids on Saturday night so their parents can go out,” said Sara, who works with the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation in Peoria. “On Sunday we will probably make a really nice dinner. We love to cook together.”

That isn’t all that gives them joy as they begin their new lives together. Heeding the words of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, among others, the Woiwodes have made prayer part of their married life.

“We’ve gotten right into a habit of praying together every night,” said Jared, a certified public accountant and tax consultant with Clifton Gunderson in Peoria. “We say our nightly prayers together as much as possible.”

Perhaps that isn’t so unusual for a couple who met at the St. Joseph Newman Center at Bradley University and got to know each other during a Koinonia retreat.

“We were sitting at the same table. It was actually Team Sara — I was the only non-Sara,” Jared said with a smile.

Looking back, they admitted that they had a crush on one another but didn’t act on it. That changed when Sara was in a play the summer before last and offered tickets to anyone who wanted to go. Thinking it was his “in” with her, Jared bought tickets and invited her out for ice cream.
After that they continued to find reasons to see each other.

“Faith provided a lot of opportunities to be together,” Jared said. “We could go to this event or that event that the diocese was sponsoring. We were both going to go, so we could go and spend that time together.”

While Sara is a “cradle Catholic,” Jared was confirmed and received into the Catholic Church a week before he graduated from Bradley University with a master’s degree in accounting in 2006. Their different experiences of the church added another layer to their discussions about the faith, according to Jared.

“Because I went through RCIA more recently I have a strong understanding about a lot of things, but Sara really has the ‘living as a Catholic’ aspect down a lot better than I do,” he said. “I can ask, ‘What do Catholics do about this?’ and she tells me. It’s like ‘book smarts’ versus ‘street smarts.’

Of one heart about each other and the church, they were also of one mind when it came to their wedding, Sara said.


“We tried to focus more on the church aspect. We put a lot of emphasis on the ceremony itself and not the reception,” she explained. “We tried to make it so it was the starting point of our life together.

“We weren’t worried about having a huge bouquet of flowers or if the program had a typo in it, although that’s really annoying,” she said, laughing over the remembered error. “That’s not important. It’s the day. We wanted our friends to come and have a good time and celebrate with us.”

“We did want to use it as an opportunity to witness to our faith for our friends and our family that this is us,” Jared added.

That included making a novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help that they concluded when they presented flowers to the Blessed Mother during the wedding liturgy. “It made that part of it that much more special,” Sara said.

Adding to the joy of the day was the presence of Bishop Jenky, they said. Msgr. Stanley Deptula, a friend of the Woiwodes from their Newman Center days and now the executive director of the Sheen Foundation, witnessed their vows.

It should come as no surprise that Archbishop Sheen’s chalice was used during the Mass and the bishop wore a pectoral cross that belonged to the El Paso native who is now being considered for sainthood.

Recently returned from their honeymoon, Jared said he is looking forward to having the “Catholic parish experience” he missed growing up. They currently attend Mass at either St. Mary’s Cathedral or St. Vincent de Paul Church in Peoria.

Sara said they also want to get involved in a group for Catholic couples that will offer them support and help them get involved.

“As we were getting ready for marriage there were so many outstanding families who witnessed to us what Christian marriage is,” Sara said. “We want to do for other people what those families did for us.”

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