FORT MILL—Ask Bonnie Panneton how she and her husband Bob have kept their marriage going for 70 years, and her answer is simple.
“Perseverance, and a lot of love and faith,” Mrs. Panneton said.
The couple took part in the Diocese of Charleston’s 10th annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration Feb. 14 at St. Philip Neri Church.
The Pannetons, who attend Divine Saviour Church in York, were honored as the couple that had been married the longest out of those attending.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who celebrated the Mass, praised the two and said their long marriage was a testament to their love for each other and faith in God.
Paul and Janet Ely, members of St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville, were noted for their marriage of 69 years. Both couples brought up the gifts during the offertory.
This celebration had one of the largest attendances since the event started in 2000. Kathy Schmugge, assistant director of the Office of Family Life, estimated about 650 people attended the Mass. The 265 couples who pre-registered represented 34 parishes and that count was increased by those who attended but weren’t registered.
Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa was a special guest for the celebration. Father Pacwa is an author, biblical scholar and teacher who is also known for popular programs on the Eternal Word Television Network such as “Threshold of Hope” and “EWTN Live.”
Father Pacwa gave a homily on the attributes of a successful marriage. He said generosity is one of the keys to happiness between husband and wife.
“You can enter into marriage by asking what am I going to get out of this, or go in with the attitude of poverty, saying ‘The Lord has given all this to me, so I want to share this with my spouse,’” he said. “You and your spouse then have the opportunity to share that generosity with each other and with your children.”
Lasting marriages, he said, are based on much more than simple infatuation and emotion, although romance and the fun that comes with it is an important part of any successful relationship.
“Marriage is more profound for Christians,” he said. “We realize that the choice of vocation we make is the choice God has set before us, and we realize the importance of choosing marriage as a vocation.
“We should be people who stand for marriage and for our Catholic faith. The choices we make in our marriages will be signs of the Gospel in this culture,” he said.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Guglielmone asked all of the married couples to stand for a blessing. He told them their commitment to their vocation was important in a secular culture that increasingly trivializes matrimonial vows and their importance.
“Thank you for the witness of marriage,” he said. “The celebration of Christian marriage is so important for the life of the church. A husband and wife without Christ at the center of their relationship can’t be fruitful.”
During the reception that followed, the Pannetons sat with their daughter, Jennie Cahill, of Fort Mill, and her husband, and accepted congratulations from friends and well-wishers. Cahill called her parents’ anniversary amazing.
Mr. Panneton, 92, and Mrs. Panneton, 88, moved to South Carolina in 1982 after he retired from Universal Foods in Wisconsin. They have seven children.
“The key to our marriage has been an ability to give, and a lot of faith,” Mrs. Panneton said. “You have to go into marriage with a lot of faith and understanding. You have to have faith in what you’re doing.”
Other couples who attended offered suggestions for how to have a long-lasting and successful marriage.
“You need love, patience and a real commitment to each other,” said Ron Tugya, who has been married to wife Lois for 35 years.
“You need lots of patience, and you need to keep God in your marriage,” Mrs. Tugya said. The couple attends St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken.
“Marriage is about sharing things and not getting upset at little things,” said Philip Bazar, who is a member of Our Lady of Grace Mission in Indian Land with wife Theresa. “It really pays to not sweat the small stuff.”
Catherine and Ernest D’Agostino, parishioners of St. Philip Neri, will celebrate their 50th anniversary on Sept. 10. Early on, they started praying the rosary before going to sleep at night.
“When we had children, we started to say it as a family, and praying together regularly really kept the family together,” Mrs. D’Agostino said. “Praying together and faith will keep a marriage going. You also need to let arguments go, and just thank God for all that you have.”