Marriage celebration brings together 7,500 years of sacrament

Charles and Mary Bennett from St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville show their affection as they receive a blessing from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at the annual diocesan marriage anniversary celebration Mass held at St. John on Feb. 2. They have been married 60 years. (Miscellany/Doug Deas)

SUMMERVILLE—The walls of St. John the Beloved Church were filled with 7,500 years of combined married love on Feb. 2 when it hosted the 20th annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration Mass.

Over 100 couples traveled from across the diocese to celebrate their sacramental marriage and renew their vows, some of them with their children by their sides — or on their laps.  

The main celebrant and homilist, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, was assisted by Father Raymond Carlo, pastor of the host parish. In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone integrated the Feast of the Presentation, World Day for Consecrated Life, and the Marriage Mass as a time to celebrate how each vocation should be seen as consecrated to God and in need of His grace.  

Jim and Isabel “Is” McGraw share a moment during the marriage celebration Mass.

The bishop spoke of the incredible gift of love shared by a married couple. To emphasize the importance of human love, he shared a quote from the famous character, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, “To love another person, is to see the face of God.” As has been the tradition, the bishop celebrated the renewal of vows and blessed their rings. 

William and Joan Tefs, who traveled from Columbia for the Mass, said they were celebrating their 68th anniversary. They were recognized as the longest married couple at the annual event.

“We feel truly blessed for all the wonderful years we have had together,” Mr. Tefs said.

Another couple who have shared numerous years are Jim and Isabel “Is” McGraw. The two started dating when she was 14 and he was 15. They dated for seven years before tying the knot, and have been married 63 years now.

 After the Mass there was a reception with wedding cake and fellowship, and the couples received a certificate to remember this day. One man who had been married for over 60 years smiled as he shared his secret, “I keep my mouth shut and do whatever she tells me.”

Bishop Guglielmone stands with William and Joan Tefs of St. John Neumann in Columbia.

Pope Paul VI wrote about marriage in “Gaudium et spec”, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church… For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state.” 

On the same day as the diocesan celebration, Pope Francis also spoke about the sacrament in his homily.

“If consecrated life remains steadfast in love for the Lord, it perceives beauty,” which certainly applied to the love witnessed at the celebration, which was evident watching elderly couples helping each other, and the love in the eyes of all the couples as they renewed their vows. It was a day that demonstrated the beauty of married love that images God’s love. 

By Kathy Schmugge, director of the diocesan office of Family Life.

Bishop Guglielmone speaks to a crowd of more than 200 people at St. John the Beloved Church.