Surrounded by their families, more than 75 married couples reaffirmed their love and commitment to each other at the annual diocesan Wedding Anniversary Celebration.
“You have witnessed to the fidelity of marriage for 25, 50, 60 and even 70 years,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said as he welcomed the married couples to morning Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights, April 25.
“We thank you for the wonderful witness you give to the Church that this sacrament, instituted by the Lord Himself, gives us an image of God’s love for the world,” the bishop said.
Bishop DiMarzio presided over the Mass. The concelebrants included Father James Massa, vicar for evangelization; Msgr. Joseph Grimaldi, episcopal vicar for Brooklyn; and Father Thomas Pettei, episcopal vicar for Queens.
Sponsored by the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, School of Evangelization, this annual event seeks to support and promote the sacrament of marriage.
The couples being honored were marking significant anniversaries, ranging from 25 to 70 years, and represented a total of 3,335 years of married life. Each couple had the opportunity to renew their nuptial vows, take a photograph with the bishop and enjoy a light reception.
Calling marriage a fundamental unit of society and the Church, Bishop DiMarzio told the husbands and wives that their witness is vital in today’s world.
“How important it is that we recognize the love that binds man and woman together,” he said.
This is especially true as marriage and family life come into focus this fall with the World Meeting of Families and the Synod of Bishops on the Family, he noted.
And in any loving marriage and family, as those gathered knew well, an essential element is forgiveness. The bishop admitted that saying, “I’m sorry,” isn’t always easy, but it is always possible with God’s grace.
“When a couple recognizes they’re living a sacrament – a sign of God’s love in the world, then the love of God, God’s grace, will … give you all that you need,” he said.
Rafael and Carmen Vanderpool of St. Fortunata Church, East New York, said God has indeed given them all that they’ve needed over the last 60 years together – but they had to do their part too.
“At the beginning, you have to struggle because you don’t really know each other,” Carmen said. “Marriage is a compromise if you want it to last.”
When asked what advice this couple would give to young couples getting married, Rafael said, “Don’t try to win all the time. You have to share and communicate, and don’t keep any secrets.”
“You have to have communication, patience and love, and put God first,” Carmen added.
Love was in the air at the Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Celebration. (Photos by Marie Elena Giossi)
Rafael and Carmen Vanderpool, 60 years, St. Fortunata, East New York
Anthony and Ether Oluwanifise, 40 years, Our Lady of Light
Bishop DiMarzio blesses the couples
Riko and Elia Licul, 50 years, St. Luke's, Whitestone
Aurio and Mary Moya, 50 years, SS. Peter and Paul and Epiphany
Nancy and Paul Gentile, 63 years, St. Ephrem, Dyker Heights
Communication wasn’t easy when Elia and Riko Licul of St. Luke’s, Whitestone, first met on the R train more than 50 years ago. Elia didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Italian, but the language of love triumphed – and they shared a common faith in God.
“We understand both languages much better now,” Elia said, laughing and then kissing her husband. “Sometimes we fight. It’s not easy, but we’re still together.”
Williamsburg residents Mary and Aurio Moya believe they’ve had 50 “wonderful” years together because they have included God in every part of their marriage.
Parishioners of SS. Peter and Paul and Epiphany, they wed at Epiphany Church on Sept. 26, 1964, and had a dinner reception at the Towers Hotel, Downtown Brooklyn.
After the reception, the newlyweds went up to their hotel room, knelt down next to each other and prayed the rosary. “We have been praying the rosary together every night since,” Mary said.
Together they’ve enjoyed the blessing of four children, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“I’m happy to have such a beautiful family,” Aurio said. “I owe my happiness to God first, then the Virgin Mary and then to her (Mary).”
Not only did the Moyas stay close to God as a couple, but also as a family: They prayed and ate dinner together, attended Mass together and always treated each other with respect.
Above all, Mary told her children, “If you have God in your heart, you’ll be happy forever.”
Their daughter, Maria Valentin, is grateful for her parents’ example. “Because of them, I’ve been married 23 years,” she said.
“They taught us faith in God and forgiveness. They were always forgiving each other and I bring that into my own family,” she said.
Before the final blessing, Bishop DiMarzio once again commended the couples and asked them “to continue showing this witness to your families and to others in the church that … it’s possible to be faithful for a lifetime – the way God intended.”