On a sunny and breezy Sunday afternoon, St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson was filled to capacity Sept. 23 as parishioners from throughout the Diocese joyfully joined with Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas to renew their marriage vows in an inaugural annual “Celebration of Marriage Mass.”
Some 200 couples from at least 38 parishes, accompanied by members of their extended families, represented a combined 9,276 years of married life.
“Today is a special day for each one of you,” the Bishop said. “…I’m sure as you think today, in those…years, there were moments that were difficult, painful, when you had to forgive one another…but that’s what love is reall y all about.”
Celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary were 92 couples, and one couple - Carl and Marie Stapleman of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Tucson - was observing 70 years of marriage.
Carl Stapleman said he was “just 21” when he married Marie, who said she was 19.
“Today you are celebrating your anniversaries…what a time of joy it is,” Bishop Kicanas told the gathering.
Each of the couples was presented a long-stemmed rose as they entered the Cathedral for the ceremony, which ended with Bishop Kicanas personally greeting each couple, being photographed with them and handing them a souvenir gift.
Then the gathering moved outside onto the cathedral veranda to enjoy wedding cake and beverages - and to take pictures to memorialize the occasion.
Bishop Kicanas praised the couples and led them in repeating their marriage vows, a moment that brought tears to the eyes of many of the participants.
“Happy the husband of a good wife,” said the Bishop in his homily. “She brings joy to her husband. Be he rich or poor, his heart is content, a smile is ever on his face.”
Bishop Kicanas said later that the couples in attendance at the cathedral “stand as an inspiration to all married couples striving to grow in respect, trust, forgiveness and love for one another.”
Marriage, the Bishop said, “is an institution that today is under much stress.”
The idea for an annual diocesan event to honor couples celebrating 25 and 50-plus years of marriage emerged early this year after Bishop Kicanas heard from Catholics that the Church and the Diocese needed to do more to support the institution of marriage.
Just the evening before the Cathedral ceremony, Bishop Kicanas attended a portion of the Catholic Engaged Encounter retreat in Tucson where 40 couples were preparing for marriage.
“I heard them share some anxiety and trepidation as they anticipate promising their love to one another for life,” he said. “I wish they could have been present at the Cathedral...to see that people can stay deeply in love over many years of life together.”
To hear Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas’ Celebration of Marriage welcome and homily, click here.
The original story can be found on The New Vision, Diocese of Tucson website.