A couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary renew their wedding vows in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Jeff Bruno photo
A couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary renew their wedding vows in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Jeff Bruno photo

They all shared different stories. They all came from different towns and parishes from around the Diocese. They were all married in different times and places. Yet, the more than 300 married couples who attended the Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses on Oct. 3, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, or Oct. 10 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, shared a common sentiment when answering the question, “What is the secret to having a successful marriage?”

The answer, it turns out, is not much of a secret. It is their love of God, their faith and one another.

“You are marriage’s success stories,” Bishop David M. O’Connell said in his homily at both Masses. The first Mass was for couples in Burlington and Mercer Counties celebrating one, 25, 50 or more years of marriage this year, and the second Mass was for couples in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Since last year’s Anniversary Blessing Masses were cancelled due to the pandemic, couples marking their second, and 26th anniversaries were also invited to participate. 

“No marriage is perfect, no human being is perfect, only God is perfect, and he calls us to strive for perfection as best we can,” Bishop O’Connell said.

“Your Sacrament has brought you together, kept you together in a bond of love that has grown stronger, deeper, holier and more intentional. It’s up to you, with God’s grace, to keep it going.” 

Credible Witnesses

The diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life hosted the Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses, occasions during which the anniversary couples renew their vows and receive special blessings from Bishop O’Connell. Each couple was also presented with a small gift on behalf of the Diocese.

For the Oct. 10 Mass in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, the congregation was treated to a little musical prelude from the Bishop who spontaneously began his homily by singing the refrain from Foreigner’s 1984 hit, “I Want To Know What Love Is.”

“If I wanted to know what love is, you’d certainly show me as we celebrate your anniversaries,” Bishop O’Connell said, adding that most of what he had learned about marriage while growing up, as well as during his almost 40 years of priesthood, he learned from his parents who were married for 59 years before his father died, as well as many other couples he has encountered. “In fact, I would say that much of what I learned about being a priest I learned from couples like you, to know what love is and to show it.”

See the Photo Gallery

“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness, to show people enlightened in mind and heart by the Word of the Lord and capable of opening their hearts and leaving them open, capable of opening their minds for their desire for God, for true life, life without end,” he said.

“You are those credible witnesses,” Bishop O’Connell said. “You are marriage’s success stories. Whether there are easy times, good times, or some challenging and difficult times, your love has seen you through and continues to. Christian marriage, sacramental marriage and family life are the ways you recognize God’s presence in your lives, ways that fulfill your lives and strengthen your sense of belonging to him, to one another and to all of us in the Church, to affirm his presence. That’s what your marriage does.”

Their Married Years

Smiles, laughter and tears of joy were shared by the married couples as they thought about their years and experiences together.

Sean and Marie Gorman of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary, shared that they desire for God to be present in their marriage and family life.

“It’s so important to find someone who has the same morals and shares the faith,” Sean Gorman said and suggested couples “pray constantly, go to Mass, pray the Rosary as a family, read the daily Readings and go to Confession.”

Betsy and Rick Adams were married in St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, 26 years ago and were glad to have the opportunity to receive the blessing from Bishop O’Connell. If pressed to give advice to couples preparing for marriage, the Adams suggested remaining steadfast in love and faith.

“Have a lot of patience. There are going to be ups and downs, just hang in there, because it’s worth it,” Rick shared.

Betsy agreed and added, “Look to God.  He will give you what you need to get through the tough times.  We’ve been very blessed.”

The strong faith foundation is also something David and Jennifer Bedad want for their marriage as they celebrated their first anniversary last year.

“It’s a joy to be surrounded by so many other married couples in person, after the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled the celebration last year.” The Bedad’s, parishioners of St. Catherine Labouré Parish, Middletown, also spoke about their positive experience during their Pre-Cana preparations, recalling it as a “fun and inspirational experience that prepared them for marriage and even helped them plan their big day.” 

Joseph and Jean Cosentino, parishioners from St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, are celebrating a significant milestone in their married life – their 70th wedding anniversary. When prompted to share their “secrets to success” they shared, “having a family to take care of and staying strong in the faith has kept our marriage alive even after so many years.”

The Cosentinos also pray the Rosary together nightly, a practice they believe keeps them rooted in their faith.

“Keep the faith and always love one another,” Joseph said, remarking that it was “lovely seeing so many happy couples celebrating together in one place,” following the Mass in the Co-Cathedral.

“She’s my little slice of heaven,” Thomas Brenner said of wife, Rita. The Brenners, parishioners of St. James Parish, Pennington, have been married for 50 years. “We wanted to join the celebration to the give thanks to God for all of the blessings we have received in our married lives,” Rita said.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve been married 52 years,” Enid Martin said of her marriage to husband, Arthur. The couple are parishioners of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown.

Her advice for a happy and faith-filled marriage?

“Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and build on those strengths. Work with each other.  Forgive, forget and start over.  Tomorrow is another day and you always get a second chance to start over,” Enid said. “And most important, be grateful – for big things, for small things and for everything in between!”