Nearly 100 couples renew marriage vows at 25th and 50th Anniversary Mass

By Paul Thomas Moore of The Catholic Post

In his homily at a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sept. 10 for couples from across the Diocese of Peoria whose 25th or 50th wedding anniversaries fall in 2023, Bishop Louis Tylka recalled a wedding he presided over as a young priest when “falling in love” took on a whole new meaning.

In that homily years ago, he incorporated what he had been reading and reflecting on about marriage and directed these words to the young couple:

“The awesome responsibility you will have as you enter into the sacrament of holy matrimony is to live your vocation in a way that your love as husband and wife reflects the very love that Jesus has for the Church.”

At which point the groom passed out.  

The best man caught the groom, Bishop Tylka reported. Knowing that the groom had a propensity for fainting, the maid of honor was ready with smelling salts hidden in her bouquet. 

While Bishop Tylka would not wish that wedding experience on any couple — or presiding priest — he added that “perhaps on some level it should be overwhelming for all of us . . . .  Maybe it should knock us out, because it is so beautiful.”


At the end of his homily on this anniversary day, Bishop Tylka referred back to that mantle of responsibility he had conferred on the young couple: that their marriage reflect “the very love that Jesus has for the Church.”

Patrick and Mary Twigg of St. Patrick Parish in Urbana kiss on the occasion of renewing their vows and celebrating their silver anniversary at the 25th and 50th Anniversary Mass. (The Catholic Post/Paul Thomas Moore)

He illustrated how those promises made on long-ago wedding days, lived out faithfully over the years, resulted in the joyful harvest seen in St. Mary’s Cathedral at the 25th and 50th Anniversary Mass. A total of 71 parishes sent in couples’ names, resulting in 376 couples being invited. The Mass was attended by a 92 celebrating couples, with 60 commemorating their 50th anniversary, and 32 marking their 25 years of marriage.        

“Today we get to witness yet again, to see how that gift of God’s love given to you, has now become that very reflection of Christ’s love for the Church.” 

Underlining the rewards of this constancy in faith were Theresa and Terry Shields, who were celebrating their golden anniversary. The Shields were married on July 21, 1973 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Galva, where they remain parishioners. 

They have a son, for whom they prayed for 10 years. “We wanted a child, and it took us a while, but we never gave up,” Terry said. As well, at one point he was laid off from his job in the coal mine for an extended period, but again, faith stepped up.

“Just knowing that we had the glue of our faith . . . it’s been the most wonderful thing in our life and our marriage,” Theresa added. 


Patrick and Mary Twigg of St. Patrick Parish in Urbana met at a Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) weekend in 1984, and connected intermittently at TEC weekends and through Koinonia retreats for more than a decade until they finally picked up on God’s plan for them and got married in 1998. Faith in God’s will would continue to guide them in the years ahead, during tough times such as health challenges, and Patrick’s military service, including a deployment to Iraq. 

Terry and Theresa Shields of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Galva were among the many couples who had their photo taken with Bishop Tylka following the Anniversary Mass. The Shields were married on July 21, 1973 at St. John the Evangelist Church and are still parish members. (The Catholic Post/Paul Thomas Moore)

“And that’s what today was about, a reminder of the commitment, because we’re both committed to this,” Mary said.  

Leading the anniversary couples in their renewal of that commitment, Bishop Tylka invited them to turn toward each other and join hands. Then he prayed, in part: “Renew their marriage covenant each and every day, increase their charity, and strengthen in them the bond of peace, so that together with the circle of the family and friends that surround them, they may forever enjoy your blessing, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”

He finished with, ‘You may now kiss your spouse,” which was followed by a silent symphony of smooches, accompanied by the applause of family and friends.  

Before the Mass, the couples and others in the assembly were musically welcomed by organist Jon Kroepel, diocesan director of sacred music, and violinist Molly Wilson-Nogaj. The choir was from Holy Family Parish in Peoria, with John Clark on piano and Chris Adams-Wenger on cello. Carmen McCarthy was the cantor.

Deacon John Nelson of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights assisted Bishop Tylka and proclaimed the Gospel reading. Terri LaHood of the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation — which organized the annual Anniversary Mass — proclaimed the first and second readings. 


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