Photos of the couples participating online are displayed in the pews at Vancouver’s Holy Rosary Cathedral. Photo courtesy Archdiocese of Vancouver

Couples celebrate 11,752 years of marriage virtually

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • May 19, 2021

VANCOUVER -- This year’s Marriage Anniversary Mass in the Archdiocese of Vancouver smashed records as 356 couples celebrated milestone anniversaries together but remotely in a virtual live event.

The couples had a combined total of 11,752 years of marriage, with the longest-married couple in attendance for the May 9 celebration, Yvonne and Lou Hamel, marking their 74th wedding anniversary.

“Every anniversary, but I think especially one marking a milestone, inspires us to be grateful for God’s gift of sacramental marriage and the families that flow from that grace,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, who celebrated the Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral.

“You, dear friends, bear witness to the faithful, joyful, yet sacrificial love that the sacramental grace of matrimony has made possible for you to offer.”

Due to pandemic restrictions only two couples participated in the Mass in person; all others were invited to view the event online and tune in with their families. The livestream had over 1,500 views.

“Thank you for your witness as couples still in love, who are striving together to overcome the trials that accompany every life, and that you’re doing so with a willingness to forgive, a willingness to let go of resentments with kindness and patience,” said Miller.

“You are proclaiming to all of us — certainly to me and my brother priests — the beauty of God’s plan for humanity and the necessity of married life and family for the welfare of society and the good of the Church.”

Organizers are calling the turnout a huge success. At the inaugural Marriage Anniversary Mass in 2018, 225 couples participated, and since then, the number of couples participating has not exceeded 200.

This year, in part thanks to the virtual event making access easier, 356 couples registered to participate in the Mass, receive a blessing on their marriage and feel part of a greater community. They represented many various ethnic backgrounds and ages, with spouses married as few as five years and as many as 60 or more included.

“I was deeply touched,” Denise Neilson told The B.C. Catholic. She married Kyle Neilson 20 years ago after their relationship began when they met by chance in a university fitness room.

“To know that we’re part of the 11,000+ number of years, to have the Church honour marriage in a way that is wonderful and affirming, it’s helpful,” said Denise.

The Neilsons volunteer as mentors in the archdiocese’s marriage mentorship program and see first-hand the value of supporting newlyweds in their commitment to each other and to living as faithful Catholics.

“We never had anybody mentor us,” said Denise. “If we had a couple like that, maybe some of the challenges we went through, we would have gotten through them sooner or more easily.”

Kyle added any way the Church can support couples is a good thing. “Encouraging couples to invest in the relationship is always a helpful reminder and opportunity, be it retreats, mentorship, courses, etc. Regular ongoing catechesis about the beautiful truths about marriage is always welcome.”

What else helps them stay together? Kyle said the sacramental life, of course. “Beyond the sacrament of matrimony, the Eucharist and confession are such helpful things.”

Rod and Melissa Quinto, married 10 years, said they worried that when they had their second and third children their time together would suffer.

“That didn’t happen. It taught us that we can love even more,” said Rod.

The “glue” that keeps marriages together isn’t just the children, said Joy Jose, who is celebrating 30 years of marriage with husband Gary this year.

“It’s really the faith that you have when you commit to each other. When you get married, it’s promising to each other that you will make things work despite all of the difficulties.”

John and Bernice Cabana, married 45 years, said time can pass so quickly.

“There are days that seem endless and you wonder how you’re going to get through the day, but 45 years has been an absolute blink, so enjoy, appreciate and love one another,” said Bernice.

John added: “Play, pray and spend time together.”

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