Avelino and Eufemia Maranan will celebrate 67 years of marriage this year. Photo courtesy Teresita Willard

Faith at core of 66-year marital union

By 
  • February 11, 2022

Avelino Maranan’s courtship of his future wife Eufemia evokes the classic ending to the 1989 romantic comedy Say Anything…

But instead of John Cusack holding a boom box over his head in Seattle, Avelino stood by his guitar accompanist in front of Eufemia’s family home in their home town of Alitagtag, in the Batangas provinces of the Philippines.

And while Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbs sang directly to his intended Diane Court (Ione Skye), Avelino’s main audience was Eufemia’s mother, Teresa.

“You would more try and impress and court the mother back in early 1950s Philippines,” said Teresita Willard, one of Avelino and Eufemia’s eight children.

Mom was impressed with her future son-in-law’s performance and welcomed him in for a living room meet-and-greet with the family. Soon after, a romance was sparked. Eufemia said she was attracted to Avelino’s “kind heart and good family.” Teresita, who spoke on Avelino’s behalf, appreciated those same qualities in his wife along with her “industrious spirit” to take care of the family.

They were wed on Oct. 2, 1955 at Invencion de La Santa Cruz Catholic Church.

Nearly 67 years later, Avelino, 91, and Eufemia, 82, will be among the couples celebrated by the Archdiocese of Toronto for Marriage Sunday, Feb. 13 at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. This special Mass, presided by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Kasun, salutes unions celebrating milestones of 25, 40, 50, 60 and 60+ years. Invited guests can renew their marital vows if they wish.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, each couple may only invite one guest to the service while all other loved ones can watch the virtual stream. The Maranans have adjusted to hosting family gatherings online, but they miss the days when they celebrated anniversaries alongside over 50 immediate family members in a pre-booked banquet hall.

Avelino, Eufemia, Teresita and her husband of nine years,  Keith, spoke to The Catholic Register in advance of Marriage Sunday from the elder couple’s home in Markham, Ont. A core takeaway from this conversation is how the family has always strived to prioritize their Catholic faith on a daily basis.

“The faith was always strong in our family,” said Teresita. “We would always go to Sunday Mass as a family — and the family would always unite for every Catholic celebration. It is part of our bloodstream. We feel like something is missing if we don’t go to church or don’t pray one day.”

Eufemia added that she “always prays the rosary every night and goes online to attend Mass” when she cannot attend in-person.

Perhaps the most glowing example of Avelino and Eufemia’s commitment to set time aside for God came when they still lived in the Philippines. In 1964, the family found a new home in the capital city of Manila. There, they established a convenience store. Somehow the couple — also raising an increasingly large family — routinely carved time during work days to attend afternoon services, and they attended a Wednesday evening Novena at a church 90 minutes away without fail.

Avelino and Eufemia followed in the footsteps of family members who had already migrated to Canada, moving to Ontario with six of their children in 1994. Teresita crossed paths with Keith a bit later. They feel they may be on the same path as Teresita’s parents.

“We’re meant to be. After moving around and going to different places, I’d come back and Keith was there,” said Teresita with a chuckle.

“Some force from up above us was weaving us together,” added Keith.

Born in Quebec as a Protestant, Keith was inspired to become Catholic by his wife and her family.

“I felt like being welcomed into the family was like heading into the Church,” said Keith. “And one of the wonderful lessons my parents-in-law taught me was to go to church whenever you can. When times are tough either in our relationship, or all other matters like church, I will head off to a church like St. Michael’s Cathedral to kneel, pray and ask for guidance.”

As Teresita and Keith get set to complete their first decade of marriage in December, they have the benefit of living just 10-15 minutes away from Avelino and Eufemia, and more importantly, the example from the path her parents have lit on how two people can walk together in love for nearly 67 years — and hopefully more.

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