No masking the love, faith of diocese’s golden and silver anniversary couples

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky applauds as couples celebrating their golden anniversaries in 2020 lower their masks to kiss after renewing their marriage vows at a Sept. 13 Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria. In the foreground are John and Mary Beth Duffy of St. Patrick Parish in Dwight, while at left are Tim and Judy Schrader of St. Ambrose Parish in Milan. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

There was no masking the love that was present in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria the weekend of Sept. 12-13.

Couples observing 25 or 50 years of marriage in 2020 may be having subdued anniversary celebrations because of the pandemic, but the gratitude expressed for their witness to love and faith during separate Masses for them at St. Mary’s Cathedral last weekend was limitless.

Bill and Mary Henderson of Sacred Heart Parish in Granville pose for a photo on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral following the diocesan Mass for couples celebrating 25 years of marriage in 2020. Setting up the photo are their daughters Hannah, Lauren, and Emma. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“You folks really are our heroes,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, after leading more than 50 golden anniversary couples in a renewal of their marriage vows on Sunday afternoon.

“In a world where the culture is melting down, where so many things are crazy, day after day you witness to your love and to your Catholic faith,” said Bishop Jenky.

The previous afternoon, Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka presided as silver anniversary couples from throughout the diocese gathered at the cathedral.

“Twenty-five years is amazing, especially in the world we live in today,” Bishop Tylka told the couples, who also renewed their vows.

“Your commitment to each other as husband and wife has been such a blessing not just to you but to all who have encountered you,” Bishop Tylka continued. “You have been a reflection of Jesus’ love for the church and for the world. That’s the vocation of marriage, to become this symbol of Jesus’ love.”

MASKS LOWERED FOR A KISS

While masks were worn by the couples and social distancing was enforced — even in post-Mass photos with the bishops — there was one exception both days at the end of the renewal of vows.

“I think you can slip those crazy masks down . . . this would be a good time to kiss your brides,” said Bishop Jenky. And the couples throughout the cathedral did just that.

Among those doing so were Dave and Sue Kovars of St. Joseph Parish in Pekin. The Kovars were married April 4, 1970 at St. Mary Church in Richland Center, Wisconsin, after meeting at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration a few years earlier.

Their golden anniversary came as the pandemic closures and travel restrictions were in full force.

“We had leftovers for dinner,” recalled Sue. Their adult two children both live out east. “I said ‘I’m glad we have each other.’”

James and Karen DeGeeter of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton renew their vows during the Sept. 13 diocesan Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral for couples celebrating 50 years of marriage in 2020. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Asked to share their secret to a lasting marriage, Dave said “You worry about what you can do for the other person, not what that person can do for you.”

“And our faith,” chimed in Sue. “Our faith has carried us through a lot of things.”

SECRETS TO LASTING MARRIAGE

Bishop Jenky challenged the golden anniversary couples to share their faith, especially with their grandchildren.

“I could preach up here,” said Bishop Jenky, “but when you witness to your faith, especially to the generation after your children’s generation, when you pass on your faith, when you share what’s important in your life, who Jesus is for you, how the life of the sacraments and the life of Sunday Mass is irreplaceable and essential . . . you are doing something for which you were created and redeemed, and for which you will be rewarded forever and ever.”

The Masses for the silver and golden anniversary couples both had readings common at weddings, including St. Paul’s description of love from his first letter to the Corinthians. The Gospel was the story of Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine after the wine ran out at a wedding in Cana.

“Sounds like they didn’t have the right wedding planner,” quipped Bishop Tylka in his homily at Saturday’s Mass.

Bishop Tylka shared a story from his time as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was preparing a young couple, Jeff and Julie, for the sacrament of marriage. A month before their wedding, he noticed they were seated at Mass directly behind another couple, Ed and Wilma, who that day were observing their 60th wedding anniversary.

Outside after Mass, Father Tylka greeted both couples. In front of the soon-to-be married Jeff and Julie, he asked Ed and Wilma to share the secret of a lasting marriage.

David and Holly Pfister of St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington are joined by their son Gabriel and daughter Lianna for a socially distanced photo with Coadjutor Bishop Tylka following the diocesan Mass for those celebrating 25 years of marriage Sept. 12 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Pfisters will observe the silver anniversary on Nov. 18. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I did whatever she told me,” said Ed. Bishop Tylka linked that comment to Mary’s advice to the stewards at the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever (Jesus) tells you.”

Wilma, however, went further. “No, Father,” she said, “we did it by telling each other we loved each other every day.”

The next day, Bishop Jenky shared the advice his own father gave a grandson who asked for the lasting marriage “secret.”

“I learned very early on to say ‘You were right. I was wrong. I’m sorry,’” Bishop Jenky recalled his father saying. “There’s a lot of truth in that, but it isn’t one-sided.

Bishop Tylka noted that, because of the pandemic, it was uncertain whether the annual diocesan anniversary celebrations could take place. He thanked God that a way was found to do so — though it meant separating the two Masses to ensure social distancing and eliminating the post-Mass reception. Each couple did, however, received certificates signed by both bishops extending their blessings and “heartfelt congratulations.”

“This is a moment that the Lord is celebrating you,” said Bishop Tylka. “It is a time for us to give thanks, to know that your witness, that your marriage, has been a blessing to so many.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the anniversary Masses have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.

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