Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Jim Davis - Florida Catholic
- See accompanying story: Advice from the long-wedded
MIAMI | Jackie and Wadi Barreto joined 123 other couples Feb. 3 to reaffirm their calling — marriage.
The annual Marriage Anniversary Mass at St. Mary Cathedral was many things: a reunion, a celebration, a renewal of vows. But the Barretos, celebrating their 25th anniversary, emphasized its sacramental facet.
“We’re called to be married — it’s a vocation, a covenant, just like the priesthood,” Wadi said. “We’re transforming into something much better than when we started.”
Lasting marriages also stand as a sign to the world about what marriage looks like, said the Mass’ main celebrant, Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
“Today, so many people — and society itself — are confused about the meaning of marriage and family,” he said in his homily. “The hopes that people place in marriage are increasingly fragile in our age of easy divorce. Your witness to the Gospel, the good news about marriage, is sorely needed today.”
The anniversary Mass featured several segments.
As couples entered, they were directed to pews up front marked for their anniversary: first, fifth, tenth and so on. They also lined up before the Mass to pose for photos with Archbishop Wenski.
Humor, with solemnity
Some of the couples showed light-hearted humor.
“I’ve gotten married twice to the same woman,” Paul LeGrande said tongue-in-cheek after he and wife Margaret got their photo with the archbishop. The couple, who attend Annunciation Church in West Hollywood, explained that after their wedding in church, they renewed their vows at a reunion for Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.
The LeGrandes, who were celebrating their 50th anniversary, said they plan to do the same in May, for yet another “wedding.”
Deacon Vince and Teresa Eberling of Mary Help of Christians parish, Parkland, had their own humor.
“We’re glad to have made it this far …” said Teresa as they marked a half-century of marriage.
“… if she doesn’t kill me!” Vince joked.
But the Mass itself was solemn spiritual business. Archbishop Wenski’s homily touched on the story of Job, known for his legendary patience.
“We want to recognize your courage in embracing the commitment of marriage — and, of course, your patience with one another over these many years,” he said. “Your life together — for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health — is a beautiful witness that God who is love made us, male and female, in his own image and likeness.”
He then had the couples stand, face each other and answer two questions: “Do you renew your promise to be true to your spouse in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health? Do you renew your promise to honor and love your spouse all the days of your life?”
On hearing their replies — “I do” in English, “Si quiero” in Spanish, “Wi, mwen vle” in Creole — he invited them to kiss.
Big shoes to fill
The 124 couples were organized in the pews by anniversary, from first to fifth to tenth and up. As Archbishop Wenski called on them, they stood for applause.
Taking the front pews were the opposite ends of the scale: Those married 50 years or more sat across the aisle from those on their first anniversary.
Running toward the high end of the scale were Miguel and Flor Montero of St. John XXIII parish in Miramar, observing their 72nd anniversary. Miguel said a vital part of their marriage was commitment to their six children, 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
“We’ve dedicated our lives to our children,” Miguel said, then quipped: “That’s why we’re not millionaires.”
One of the younger couples acknowledged they had big shoes to fill.
“The older couples are an inspiration; we hope to live up to them,” said Matthew Sweet, a member of Gesu parish along with his wife, Ariana. “If they can do it, we can do it.”
Ariana said they discussed commitment before they married. “We talked about being together for eternity, even in heaven. To have a partner who boosts you every day, who lets you be yourself, that’s so reassuring.”
Other couples, too, had their cheerleaders — including Franz Semprum and Sonia Ibrahim of St. Katharine Drexel Church, Weston, who came with their daughter Emmy. They’re marking their 25th anniversary.
“It’s so nice to have a loving family,” said Emmy, 17. “It shows when we’re all together.”
The Semprums’ parents celebrated their 50th anniversaries just two years ago, Sonia said. “But we’re gonna beat ‘em!”
Surrounded by families
Some families contributed more than one couple to the anniversary Mass. Jackie and Wadi Barreto, members of St. Brendan Church in Miami, attended the Mass with Jackie’s parents, Francisca and Victor Rivera. The Riveras, who go to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Doral, were observing 60 years of marriage.
Attending for the 15th time were Rolando and Aday Reyes of San Lazaro Church in Hialeah. They’re observing their 66th anniversary this year.
This year, they came with seven family members, including children and grandchildren, said daughter Antonia Santos.
“At the beginning, they went by themselves — now I take them,” she said. “They’re both very enthusiastic. They’re examples for all of us.”
Her daughter Angelica, 20, said the grandparents were inspirational.
“Divorce is so high — but instead of throwing [marriage] away, they work through it,” said Angelica, watching along with her sister Anabella. “They planted a flower, and they make it grow.”
Indeed, the longer the marriage, the steadier it seemed, to hear those at the Mass.
“We feel closer now than before,” said Leonie Gordon of St. Edward parish, Pembroke Pines, holding her 50th anniversary with husband Ludlow.
Brenda Dawson even voiced a wish for more people to take part in marriage ministries. She and her husband, Deacon Thomas Dawson, work with the Couples for Christ and Fully Engaged groups at St. Katharine Drexel.
Getting into marriage support groups “would empower their faith and keep them strong,” said Mrs. Dawson, celebrating her 52nd anniversary with her husband. “We feel blessed to be able to share our journey in marriage with them.”