Marriages honored at anniversary Mass

ORANGEBURG — Patience, humor and prayer — couples who attended the ninth annual Marriage Anni versary Celebration on Feb. 15 said those three things help them keep their marriages happy, faith-filled and strong.

“Marriage is a give-and-take,” said Anna Coracy, who participated with William, her husband of 56 years. “You have to have pat i e nce and overlook a lot of things. You also have to have a lot of faith when you’re married.”

They are members of Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia.

“We make sure that when we wake up each morning, we’re never mad at each other,” Mr. Coracy said.

The Coracys joined 60 married couples from 28 parishes at the celebration held at Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg. Father James L. LeBlanc, director of the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Family Life, and Father Michael Okere, administrator of Holy Trinity, concelebrated a Mass.

During the liturgy, the couples held hands and received a blessing of their marriages.

Father LeBlanc’s homily focused on the importance of marriage as a sacrament in the Catholic Church, and how couples must make sure they are in full sacramental harmony with the church.

He said some people might have been a little confused as to how the readings for the day, which dealt with the healing of lepers and the concept of being unclean, related to marriage.

The first reading (Lv 13:1-2, 44-46) described the ancient Hebrew codes of how lepers were to act in the general public.

The second reading (1 Cor 10:31-11:1) focused on doing everything in life for the glory of God and on imitating the example of Christ.

The Gospel reading (Mk 1:40-45) described Jesus healing a man with leprosy, and then instructing him to follow established rules, including making a sacrifice as ordered by Moses.

Father LeBlanc said the readings all symbolically showed the importance of following church rules when it came to sacraments such as marriage. Without following them, he said, individuals and couples can find themselves outside the fullness of grace.

He described how all the sacraments complement each other and flow into one another, and said Catholic couples who marry in ways not accepted by canon law are not married in the eyes of the church.

“In order to get into the sacrament of matrimony, Catholics must stand up before a Catholic priest or Catholic deacon,” he said. “Many of our people are not in that situation.”

Father LeBlanc encouraged the couples to reach out to Catholic family members or friends they know whose marriages are not valid in the eyes of the church, and urge them to take steps to make them valid.

“The leper had a problem, came to Jesus and got it cured according to the rules of the time,” Father LeBlanc said. “That’s what the church offers to people not living in communion with the church in the sacrament of matrimony.”

At the offertory, the couples who had the shortest and longest marriages presented the gifts.

The longest marriage honor went to Cyril and LetaMae Kozel, parishioners at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, who have been together for 60 years.

Christina and Andrew Bailey, both 24, were the newlyweds of the crowd. They have been married for three years. The couple, who attend St. Andrew Church in Barnwell, brought their 18-month-old son with them.

Mrs. Bailey said her parents regularly attend the marriage anniv ersary celebration, and persuaded her to come for the first time this year.

“I thought it was really nice,” she said. “It gave us both some hope to see marriages that last, because we have so many friends who have already been divorced. It meant a lot to us to see a lot of married couples that have been together for so long.”

Rita and Paul Thiel, who also attend Our Lady of the Hills, described their 58-year marriage as a 50-50 partnership spiced with laughter and generosity.

“He accepts my faults, and I accept his,” Mrs. Thiel said.

“He’s been a wonderful husband and father. He helps out with things.”  The Thiels have eight children, 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Thiel said another key to success was their commitment to focus on each other along with their duties as parents.

“We made a pact we weren’t going to be servants for our children,” he said.

Mrs. Thiel said a strong faith in God is vital to help couples deal with both the routine struggles of daily life, and greater hardships that come along.

“Without faith I wouldn’t have gotten through breast cancer and losing two of my children,”  she said. “We’ve gotten through things with faith and prayer, and holding on to each other.”