Fr. Mark McGuckin performs the marriage ceremony for Danda Santos and Mark Witecki, which took place shortly after Witecki was confirmed at the Easter Vigil at St. Joseph’s Church in Port Moody, B.C. Photo contributed to The B.C. Catholic

Wedding follows on heals of confirmation

By  Terry O’Neill, Canadian Catholic News
  • June 2, 2022

PORT MOODY, B.C. -- In the happy moments following the end of the Easter Vigil service at St. Joseph’s in Port Moody, nine of the 10 men and women who were baptized or confirmed that evening began to leave the sanctuary with family and friends, most heading to a celebratory gathering in the adjoining church hall.

But one remained — Mark Witecki, a 28-year-old electrician who had been confirmed that evening. Pulling off his red confirmation robe to reveal his black tuxedo, Witecki stayed behind because he had his own special celebration planned, one that would see him receive an additional sacrament that night: holy matrimony.

Witecki was soon joined at the altar by Danda Santos, a 38-year-old financial day-trader. With only a few relatives on hand as witnesses, they were married within half an hour.

The unusual timing of the wedding ceremony culminated a remarkable journey for the couple, one that not only led them to discover their love for each other, but also saw Witecki embrace the Catholic faith and, in so doing, lead Santos to re-embrace hers.

The two met through an online dating service and began dating a few years ago, Santos said. As their relationship grew, so did their interest in the Church.

Santos, who graduated from Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary in Port Coquitlam, had only an “on again, off again” relationship with her faith, while Witecki, who had not been raised in any faith, was searching.

After Witecki’s mother became a Catholic and started attending Mass at Christ the King in Langley, Witecki began catechism classes there and was eventually baptized.

“As he was doing his catechism, I asked if I could join because I’m out of practice,” Santos said. “On a basic level, I knew I could really learn something. My other thought was, we’re starting to get pretty serious here and, if we’re going to raise our children in the Church, I want to know what you are learning.”

Santos, a divorcee previously married in a civil ceremony, said she had been yearning to return to the Church for years, but believed she was unworthy.

“I felt I didn’t deserve forgiveness,” she said. “I didn’t deserve the love of God.”

Her faith journey allowed her to realize that “it’s never too late to realize that you belong.”

The couple made plans for a church wedding in a Vancouver-area parish in late February, but last-minute complications arose that forced them to change their plans. With relatives arriving from the Philippines and with other arrangements already firmed up, they decided to get married in a civil ceremony and search for a new parish for a later church wedding.

That brought them to St. Joseph’s in Port Moody, where Witecki completed his RCIA education leading to his confirmation. With the couple wanting to marry as soon as possible after the confirmation, Fr. Mark McGuckin suggested a post-Easter Vigil ceremony.

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, the couple moved into separate bedrooms in their Coquitlam apartment and ensured they were in a state of grace before making their sacred vows. They credit an archdiocesan counsellor for advising them on this course of action.

“She really helped us frame it so it became very important to give ourselves to each other in the purest form that we could,” Santos said.

“It was definitely very important for me to be married in that state of grace. It felt like it was the purest form of love that we could be united as one, in the Church, and to really receive the sacraments in the best possible way.”

Witecki said he was grateful for connecting with McGuckin.

”We found St. Joseph’s by the grace of God,” he said. “God has a plan for us. He connected us with one of the best priests we’ve encountered.”

Now happily married in the Church, the couple is looking forward to having children and raising a Catholic family. Where exactly that will be is not certain, as Witecki and Santos are leaving Canada for a few months to discern whether to settle in another country.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the couple’s story, it’s “to never give up,” said Witecki, who is delighted they did not abandon their desire to be married in the Church.

Santos agreed.

“It feels incredible,” she said of her church wedding. “It’s such an amazing feeling, and I feel so blessed that we were able to do it.”

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