A couple, one of 15 to attended the evening, renew their wedding vows. Participating couples spanned from one to 50 years of marriage.
A couple, one of 15 to attended the evening, renew their wedding vows. Participating couples spanned from one to 50 years of marriage.

By Mary Stadnyk  | Associate Editor

The gift that Terry Schumann of Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton, gave to her husband, Bob, for Christmas was to plan a date night once a month.

For February, Terry wanted to do something more than just go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. She wanted to celebrate the couple’s love and marriage by doing something holy and prayerful. So, the Schumann’s date night was spent Feb. 14 Francis House of Prayer, Rancocas, where they attended the Valentine’s Evening for Couples that was complete with a Mass that included the renewal of wedding vows and dinner.

“Marriage is so holy, and I wanted a holy evening,” Schumann said as she reflected on how the renewal of vows “reminded us of our commitment to each other.”

“I think more couples should renew their vows often [because] it reminds you of your promises to each other and to God,” added Bob Schumann, who enjoyed meeting 14 other couples and hearing their stories.

Almost every year for the past 20 years, Francis House of Prayer has hosted a Valentine’s Evening for Couples “as a way of honoring the gift of marriage,” said Sister of St. Joseph Marcy Springer, director of Francis House.

Noting that this year’s group of 15 couples included one newly married and one that had just celebrated 50 years of marriage a few days earlier, Sister Marcy said, “It is such a privilege to offer this evening each year and witness the beauty of married life well-lived and commitments so earnestly renewed. The love in the room goes out to the world!”

Father Michael Kennedy, parochial vicar of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington, who celebrated the Mass, said he thought the goal of the evening at Francis House “was really a chance to honor the Sacrament of Marriage and to recall what, in fact, the couples had committed to doing when they took vows … in a sense, looking beyond the ‘romantic’ aspect of their love and appreciating the genuine work of love.”

“I think any time that we intentionally recall and renew our commitment to each other in light of a relationship that involves God, and especially our commitment to God, we are renewed spiritually. I suppose we can’t help but be renewed,” he said. 

In his homily, Father Kennedy referred to the chorus from Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” – “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me” – then spoke of how the words reminded him of his parents, who would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Father Kennedy’s mother died shortly before he was ordained a priest in 2017.

“They were an excellent model of marriage,” said Father Kennedy, reflecting on his parents’ commitment and their relationship.

Father Kennedy went on to tell of how people in healthy marriages “take their vows seriously” and they understand, appreciate and embrace their marriage as a vocation. Husbands and wives who are in healthy marriages are able to remain as individuals and grow as individuals, said Father Kennedy, and together, they grow in their relationship with each other and with God.

“That’s their goal, to become more like Christ,” he said.

He also reminded the couples that even in death, an “eternal connection” remains between the living spouse who remains on earth and the deceased spouse in heaven, because their union was a sacramental marriage.

“Thank you for being a model for marriage, and being in a relationship with each other and with God,” Father Kennedy said to the couples. “Thank you very, very much.”

Rosemary Costello of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, who was with her husband of 55 years, Jim, said she enjoyed everything about the evening, especially the renewal of marriage vows.

“It’s a reminder of why you got married in the first place,” she said, then with a smile, added how excited she and her husband were about the following day when they would get to meet their new great-granddaughter who was scheduled to be born Feb. 15.