It was at a barn dance near the small community of Munjor, Kansas in the middle of the Great Depression when Marcellus Ruder asked 17-year-old Marcella Rohr to dance with him. Little did either realize that moment would change the course of their lives forever. In October, they will be married 70 years and will celebrate with their four children, seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, as well as many family and friends.
However, on Saturday they started the festivities early at the second of two Jubilee Celebrations of Marriage in the diocese. The Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church was celebrated by Bishop Paul Coakley, with Father Kevin Weber and Father Joshua Werth concelebrating and Deacon Tom Koerner assisting.
Two weeks early, the bishop celebrated a similar Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Salina.
On Saturday, Bishop Coakley acknowledged in his homily that each couple has learned a lot in this “journey of love.”
“It is likely that all of you held a secret in your hearts the day you married — the secret that your marriage would be different, that all times would be for good, for better and for richer. In order for love to be deepened, it is precisely in these difficult times that we need to recommit ourselves to one another. It is in these times that we discover the real meaning of love. Love is a decision, not a feeling,” he said.
From the start of their marriage in 1939, the Ruders can tell you story after story about difficult times — and good times as well.
Because of the economic times, the couple began their marriage living with Marcellus’ parents. There also was another married sibling living at home, as well as seven younger Ruder children.
Marcella’s mother died when she was 11, and her father depended on her and her sister to care for the younger ones. After Marcella married, she went to town two days a week to help care for her siblings and her father’s household.
Marcellus and Marcella later moved to Hays and Plainville, then to Wyoming, Texas and back to Hays — wherever Marcellus’ job with an oil company took him.
“We lived in Wyoming for nine months, and that was one hellacious winter,” Marcellus said. “I asked for a transfer, and that’s when we moved to Texas.”
Through all the moves and the raising of their children, the Ruders continued to give of themselves. If it was a new school that needed to be built, Marcellus came home from work, skipped supper and helped to build the school until late into the night. If he could help to do anything for the church or its school, he did. In addition, each summer he took vacation to return home to help with the harvest on the family farm.
Marcella worked as a nurse’s aide in the hospital and in the community and church whenever she could.
“Wherever we moved, my mother introduced herself and made friends,” Ann Ruder, the couple’s daughter, said.
Practicing their Catholic faith and handing it down to their children was an important element in their married life.
“Every time there was a church service of any kind, the Ruder family was there,” Ann Ruder said. “We prayed the Rosary every night, often kneeling on a hard, wooden floor.”
Marcella chuckled at the memory.
When St. Nicholas of Myra Parish was formed in Hays, the Ruders were there to help contribute in any way they could. Marcella was well-known for cleaning the linens used for Mass.
The couple has some advice for those beginning their married lives.
Everything a couple does, they must do as a team, they said.
“There’s lots of things you don’t agree with, but you just have to give in,” Marcella said.
“Oh, it’s difficult at times, especially being young and married,” Marcellus chimed in. “But we made a commitment for better or worse. We got married and we were going to stay married.”
It is this commitment of love that Bishop Coakley celebrated as he honored more than 3,600 years of marriage during the Mass.
“You loved through the good times, the bad, through sickness and health. We lift you up, and we bless you. We thank you for being witnesses for the Church of the dignity, sacredness and goodness in this divine sacrament,” Bishop Coakley said.
Printed with permission from The Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Salina, Kan.