Anne and Dane MacCarthy pose at their local parish of St. Basil’s in Toronto. They are one of the many couples who will be celebrated at a Marriage Sunday Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica on Feb. 12. Michael Swan

Answer to marriage isn’t blowing in the wind

  • February 9, 2023

Anne and Dane MacCarthy’s marriage story began at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Toronto.

Over 60 years ago, parishes would routinely host dance nights for young adult Catholics. At one of these parties, a beauty across the dance floor drew the gaze of a young Dane.

“I saw this attractive-looking young lady and I thought, maybe I could drive her home in my blue Volkswagen, so I asked her and she said, ‘no.’”

Anne turned Dane down not because she wasn’t interested in getting to know him more, but because she had gone to the dance with one of her girlfriends. She couldn’t leave her chum behind. 

A couple of weeks later, at another parish dance, Dane calibrated his request. He asked Anne if he could drive her and her friend home from the dance. Anne responded: “Yes.”

They gravitated towards each other because both had a deep passion to be practicing Catholics. 

“In fact, you had to say a prayer to prove you were a Catholic to get into those dances,” Anne said with a smile. 

“To prove that you were legit,” added Dane.

Dane and Anne were both steadfastly committed to becoming involved only with a partner who could help them grow in their relationship with God. 

Fast forward to the present. Dane, 84, and Anne, 83, are celebrating their 61st year of marriage in 2023. On Feb. 12, the MacCarthy’s will be one of the Archdiocese of Toronto couples celebrated at a special Marriage Sunday Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica starting at 2:30 p.m. 

All couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries (25th, 40th, 50th, 60th and 60-plus) will have an opportunity to renew their vows and receive a special blessing from celebrant Bishop Vincent Nguyen. Enthusiasm for attending this Mass to honour these couples was so high that in-person invitations are sold out. However, anyone interested in experiencing the ceremony can view the livestream at

Anne and Dane’s relationship with Marriage Sunday dates back to the initiative’s launch in 2011. It was the MacCarthys who proposed the idea.

“I don’t think there is much in the Church for married couples after their wedding day, and that is why we got involved in the very beginning,” said Anne. “These people need to be celebrated for their longevity of their sacrament.”

One of the defining events in the MacCarthy’s marriage occurred in 1980. A representative of the marriage enrichment program Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) came to deliver a presentation at the MacCarthy’s parish, St. Basil’s Catholic Parish at the University of St. Michael’s College. Both became intrigued about participating in an encounter weekend. 

“Secretly, both of us were thinking, “Where are we at with our marriage,’” Anne said. “I think we needed a checkup. We were married for 18 years at the time, living in the suburbs raising four teenagers, and we were having lots of issues raising teens. Our marriage was needing something more than we were getting in the parish, I’d say.”

They came away from this weekend renewed, she said.

“The whole idea of loving oneself, you have to love yourself so you can love one another. You have to forgive yourself for all the things that may have gone wrong in the past in your marriage or before. It felt like a light at the end of the tunnel. It was a refreshment. We got to know each other better about why I was feeling frustrated, why Dane was feeling frustrated. There was a great dialogue format to the weekend.” 

The transformative weekend spawned an enduring bond between the MacCarthy’s and WWME.

“We became very involved in different levels of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter hierarchy, including serving as representatives on their world council,” said Dane. “When we were on the world council, we met couples from France, Germany, Asia. It brought us in contact with couples going through similar marriage experiences in other countries. It broadened our perspective.”

Another key message of the WWME weekend was for couples to deepen their bond by diving headfirst into service of the Church. Both contributed to the local chapter of Serra International, a global network of Catholic men and women who support the formation and vocational journeys of priests and women religious. Anne has championed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and Dane devoted years of service to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. 

Their impressive legacy of service was honoured in October 2018. To their surprise, Cardinal Thomas Collins awarded Anne and Dane with Papal Honours and Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medals, which is bestowed to clergy and laity for service to the Catholic Church.

Ultimately, Anne and Dane’s greatest accomplishment is family. Their four children are Erin (married to Paul Dunphy), Susan (Tim Reffle), Kevin (Josi) and Neil (Laura). They have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

Anne and Dane both commented on how much more secular the world is compared to when they were in courtship. Anne said her advice for young Catholics starting out today is “to take pre-marriage courses. Marriage today is not long-lasting and you need to know as much about each other as possible.

“And get to know your fiancée’s family. We’re proud of our family. You might be uncomfortable because you are different, but you are going to be involved with them so get to know them really well.”

Commitment to their Catholic tradition has been a source for Anne and Dane’s six-decade bond. It is like a sturdy ship, capable of navigating its passengers through whatever stormy waters they encounter. 

One time they attended a wedding in an outdoor tent, and during the celebration the wind swept the tent away.

“I thought, ‘If they got married in a Church that never would have happened,’” Anne said. “I’ve never seen a Church blow away in the wind.”

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