COQUITLAM, B.C. – Jennifer Sison couldn’t stop crying and smiling when she and her husband Carlo walked down the aisle to say their vows in front of 58 other brides and grooms and hundreds of well wishers at St. Clare of Assisi Parish.

“I felt like crying, and excited. Lots of people were there to celebrate for us,” said Sison. “We felt so very blessed at that time. My husband and I were so happy.

”Jennifer and Carlo were one of 30 couples married in the Coquitlam church in one massive ceremony last month, setting a new record for the largest marriage in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Organizer Deacon Greg Barcelon said the great big wedding was hosted for couples who have been civilly married but never said their “I do’s” in a church. Catholics married outside the Church are barred from receiving the sacrament of Communion.

“It’s really life-changing for them,” the deacon said. “There are many of them out there that we can gather and bring back.”

The Archdiocese of Vancouver first held a wedding for civilly married couples, also called a convalidation, for 15 couples in 2016.

This year’s event was twice the size.

“We’re actually just barely scratching the surface,” said Barcelon.

“It’s like Catholics Come Home,” an initiative aimed at inviting lapsed Catholics back to Church and launched in the Archdiocese of Vancouver in 2012 and 2013. “Now that they are able to receive the sacraments, they are coming back.”

Archbishop J. Michael Miller celebrated the wedding Mass with all 60 brides and grooms, plus their families and witnesses, on Sept. 16.

“It is a blessed moment for you, dear friends, many of whom have waited long for this day when you are restored to full communion with the Church,” he said during his homily.

“Through the sacramental graces you will receive from this day forward, your married love will be purified, strengthened and ennobled.”

Miller urged the 30 couples to be “faithful witnesses of God’s love” by constantly nourishing their relationships and their faith.

After four years of civil marriage to Carlo, Sison said she is thrilled she has been married in the Church and can receive the Eucharist.

“As a couple, we go to church, but we don’t receive the holy bread. We just cross our hands on our chests. It’s very important for us to accept the body of Christ when we go to church. Now we are blessed in our church so we can accept that,” she said.

“God will give us more blessings, I believe, if we are blessed in our Church.”

(The B.C. Catholic)

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