The year was 1969. Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Sesame Street debuted, gas was 35 cents a gallon and Woodstock attracted more than 350,000 rock and roll fans. The year also saw the marriage of more than 340 couples in the Diocese of Harrisburg.
More than 100 of those 347 couples were recently recognized during a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer. The 50th Anniversary Mass, annually hosted by the Diocesan Office of Family and Respect Life Ministries, the Harrisburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Senior Adult Ministry, was celebrated at Good Shepherd Church in Camp Hill on Sunday, July 14. Surrounded by family members, friends and other loved ones, the golden anniversary couples took this opportunity to renew their commitments to each other, to God and to the Church.
“Let me say congratulations to our 50th wedding anniversary couples and what a joy it is to gather together with you, with your families and friends in this Diocesan celebration,” said Bishop Gainer. “Our records show that there were 347 couples in our Diocese who this year are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a great blessing and what a great witness you all give to this beautiful sacrament Christ has given to us in the Church.”
“A wedding anniversary doesn’t just celebrate the passing of time. Fifty years is a long time and it’s a wonderful testimony to both of you, to each of you spouses and all of you together, of the commitment you made on your wedding day. For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, whatever life held in store for you, you would remain faithful to those wedding vows,” continued Bishop Gainer. “So we celebrate not just 50 years, but fidelity through those 50 years. We live in a world that it is becoming more and more likely that people don’t keep their promises. Words are spoken and taken lightly. But you spoke those words from the core of your being and you have remained faithful through these years to what you said before God and one another and the Church. For that we thank you. You are more valuable than any homily or sermon I could preach today because your lives give witness to the teaching of the Church. Your lives give witness of the love Christ has for his Church, which is embodied in the love you have for one another. And your love for your families.”
“Blessed are you, Lord, for in the good and the bad times of our life you have stood lovingly by our side. Help us, we pray, to remain faithful in our love for one another, so that we may be true witnesses to the covenant you have made with humankind.” With these words and a blessing from Bishop Gainer, and among their families and friends, the 140 couples attending recommitted themselves to each other, just as they did 50 years ago.
“The best thing is that we were friends before we got married. We loved the companionship and just being together. Having your ‘best friend’ become someone you can trust and share everything with,” said Hans and Marge Mijocevic from St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle.
“Our faith in God and His mother keep us from stumbling around in the dark,” said Leonard and Janet Buckley from Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Conewago. “All the major decisions in our life were made with prayer.”
“We always prayed and worshipped together and always kept our third partner in the marriage, the Lord, the center of our relationship,” said Fred and Barbara Persing from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Mount Carmel.
“Being of the same faith has given us a solid foundation and a way to handle life’s ups and downs. We realize that neither of us is perfect,” added George and Patricia Delaney from St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg. “Our faith has given us opportunities to meet and to form close relationships with people who share similar values and lifestyles.”
“Love and faith reinforce each other, with both providing something that you can count on and which will always be there when you need it the most,” said Lee and Barbara Woodmansee from St. Rose of Lima Parish in York.
Serving as a testament for marriage, the couples celebrating had some advice to give those just starting their marriages.
“Making God your number one priority, respect for each other’s feelings, good communication daily, learning to listen, making small sacrifices for each other, complimenting one another, but most importantly, keeping your love strong, that way you will achieve unity in your family,” advised Juan and Analis Ortiz from St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Lancaster.
“Communicate, cooperate, be affectionate, be honest and responsible, be as selfless as possible,” said the Delaneys. “Have both common and differing interests, as well as a good sense of humor, and a fair amount of maturity.”
For more photos from the 50th Anniversary Mass, visit the Diocese of Harrisburg’s Facebook page. More information and resources on the Diocesan marriage and family ministry can be found on Marriage and Family page of our website, https://www.hbgdiocese.org/marriage-and-family/.
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness