Couples renew marital vows, celebrate a lifetime with God

GOOSE CREEK — The renewal of vows held at Immaculate Conception Feb. 9 was more than a spiritual marking of the passage of time; it was a testimony to teamwork, a team consisting of God, a husband and a wife.

In his homily for the third annual wedding anniversary celebration, Adorno Father Frank Palmieri, spoke of the covenant of marriage in which a man and woman establish a partnership for their whole lives.

“It is a sacrament,” he said. “A sacrament is sacred. It is a sign of God’s grace, God’s presence. A sign has to signify something. Marriage is the sign of the relationship of Christ and his church, a sign of love, a sign of healing, constantness, forgiveness and faithfulness.” And that faithfulness, he said, comes from God.

Most of the congregation at the Mass sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston was celebrating marriages over 40 years with one couple celebrating 61.

Father Palmieri, who said he has been involved in marriage encounter for 27 years, explained to the committed couples about their responsibility as husbands and wives.

“You can minister to the world what love is and that is the greatest gift,” he said.

Bishop Robert J. Baker celebrated the Mass. As he led the renewal of vows, many a hand reached up to wipe away tears.

Charles and Madeleine Combier of St. Mary Help of Christian in Aiken attended the Mass to mark their 52 years together. Pat and Mike Schiadaresis from St. Michael Church in Garden City joked that they had 64 years of marriage between them. The widow and widower were blessed with love a second time and have shared 11 wonderful years together.

A sense of humor has also been important to Judge Robert Mallard and his wife, Ruth, who have been married 45 years. They are members of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Mallard said he would encourage young husbands-to-be to forget about their fears and to take a chance when they consider marriage. But once they are married, the secret to a lasting relationship is to “keep your big mouth shut.

“I wouldn’t argue with my wife if I had to,” he said. “You just have to work things out.”

Mrs. Mallard held back sentimental tears when asked what keeps their marriage strong.

“A deep love and commitment,” she said. “It takes a lot of patience and a lot of hard work, and not giving up and walking away. You can’t take what seems to be the easy way out.’

But humor is apparently key. The mother of five also divulged another little secret the Mallards share.

“We always said that if either of us wanted to leave, the person who was leaving had to take all the children with them,” she said laughing.

Walter and Thelma Grate of St. Patrick’s and Our Lady of Mercy parishes in Charleston have found that staying together has sometimes meant being on the move and being apart. As a U.S. Air Force veteran, Walter said they spent their first 21 years traveling. Thelma and their three children went with him whenever they could.

In their 50 years together, Walter said he learned some important lessons about what he describes as a joint adventure.

“Be patient and realize that the man doesn’t always get the last word,” he said. But that philosophy apparently pays off.

“Sometimes you have to let him be the boss,” said Mrs. Grate.

Now they can teach their 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren about patience.

In closing the Mass, Bishop Robert J. Baker encouraged the couples to pray with their families. He urged them to recite the rosary and, with the nearing of Lent, say the Stations of the Cross. He also suggested they get involved in the evangelization of their faith through programs such as Disciples in Mission.

Paul and Rita Thiel knew from whence the bishop spoke. They have been married 52 years, raised eight children and did everything as a family, whether it was kneeling down to pray at bedtime or sitting around the dinner table talking at mealtime.

When talking about their lives, they supplement each other’s stories and share an affectionate twinkle in their eyes. They belong to Our Lady of the Hills in Columbia. This is the second time they have attended the Mass to renew their vows. They are inspired as they reaffirm their faith-filled commitment and on the drive home find themselves reminiscing about the good times and the hard times, the family adventures, living in 15 houses, and losing a daughter to cancer.

“We have had a wonderful marriage,” Mrs. Thiel said. “We do a lot of things together.”

They once piled all the kids into their camper and drove to Las Vegas. The Thiels visited friends who were talking part in a parish marriage counseling session. They thought it was interesting that many young couples said they wanted to wait to have children so they could ski or travel.

Mr. Thiel said they told them that they had skied in California, Colorado and many other places, they had traveled all over the United States. Then they told the young couples they had done all this with eight children in tow.

“He doesn’t do boys’ weekend out and I don’t do girls’ weekend out,” said Mrs. Thiel. “We don’t have to, we do things together.”