Bishop O'Connell greets the anniversary couples from Burlington and Mercer Counties during the Oct. 2 Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Mike Ehrmann photo
Bishop O'Connell greets the anniversary couples from Burlington and Mercer Counties during the Oct. 2 Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Mike Ehrmann photo
After 70 years of marriage, Arlene and Ed Scully of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, believe a good marriage is about “give and take, through good times and bad.

“Through it all, the Lord is in charge so no matter what happens, we don’t worry,” Arlene maintained.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Anniversary Blessing Mass -- Oct. 2, 2022

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Anniversary Blessing Mass -- Oct. 9, 2022

The Scullys were among the more than 300 couples from around the Diocese who attended the 2022 Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses this year. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated a Mass on Oct. 2 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, for married couples from Burlington and Mercer Counties marking one, 25, 50 or more years of marriage this year, and celebrated another Mass on Oct. 9 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, for couples from Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

“In the Sacrament of Marriage, God invites us not only to have the assurances that come with supernatural faith in him but also in the person we have chosen to marry, the person sitting next to you today after all these years of married life,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily.

The Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses have been a longstanding favorite in the Diocese, providing an opportunity for the honored couples to renew their wedding vows and receive a special blessing from the Bishop. After the Masses, the couples are invited to receive an individual blessing from one of the priest concelebrants and a certificate marking their milestone. This year, each celebration was followed by refreshments, music and dancing.

Secrets of Their Success

Through joyful words, laughter and tears, some of the couples shared their sentiments on the marriages being celebrated that day.

“Communication, compromise and love” are the components of a lasting marriage, said 50-year anniversary couple, Linda and Willie Santos of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish.

Noting how inspired she was to see the number of couples who have been married for so many years turn out for the Mass, Linda said, “You have to have faith, family and love.”

The couple also extended appreciation to the Diocese and the Co-Cathedral for hosting the event. “As Roman Catholics, we take our faith very seriously,” Willie said, “and observing this anniversary wedding celebration is a blessing itself.”

Maryellen and George Zitzler of Resurrection Parish, Delran, said that their praying together and attending Mass regularly has been an integral part of their 50 years together, while Nancy and Butch Colavito of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, cited the importance of being a good listener, being honest with each other, having patience and choosing words carefully as key ingredients for marital success.

“And every night we end our day with a kiss,” said Nancy, who added that she and Butch are the proud parents of two sons, including Father Chris Colavito, Catholic chaplain at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, and academic director of the diocesan Diaconate Formation Program.

Maureen and Louis Di Paolo smiled as they reflected on some of the highlights since their wedding day in July, 2021.  They were blessed to attend a papal audience with Pope Francis while on their honeymoon in Rome; they moved from New York to a new home in Lavallette and joined the town’s St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish, and the “best part of all” was welcoming Baby Rocco Dean into their lives this past May.

“It takes 100 percent teamwork,” Louis said of married life.

“We complement one another,” Maureen added.

Her words were echoed by silver anniversary couple Gregory and Marilyn Lecerff of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, who claimed that they’ve found “forgiving over and over again” to be an essential to marriage.

Silver anniversary couple Jonathan and Maria Theresa Edralin of St. Clement Parish, Matawan, admitted that their family has experienced some challenging circumstances. But they were happy to have their three children, present for the Anniversary Blessing Mass.

“With God’s grace, we managed to pull through it together, Jonathan said.

After noting that the greatest blessings they received during their 50 years of marriage have been their six children and 20 grandchildren, Peggy and Joe Loennecker of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, reflected on what it meant for them to celebrate their golden anniversary with a Mass celebrated by Bishop O’Connell.

“It is the way that our marriage started, with God, and he is the one who will keep us going.”

Labor of Love

Reflecting on the Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing, which is a tradition in the Diocese of Trenton started by Bishop George W. Ahr in 1963, Peg Hensler, diocesan associate director of marriage ministries and Natural Family Planning, said the occasion “is always a great source of joy for our anniversary couples and an invaluable witness for our families, especially the children and grandchildren of these wonderful couples.

“This event is a time to uphold what is good, true and beautiful about the Sacrament of Matrimony reflected in the faces of every anniversary couple,” she said.

Msgr. Edward Arnister is one pastor who enjoys concelebrating the Bishop’s Anniversary Mass and sharing in a happy occasion with the married couples.

“What a beautiful and touching witness of love, faithfulness, commitment and the joy of our brothers and sisters who live out the vocation of Holy Matrimony,” said Msgr. Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, Belmar. “The Anniversary Blessing Mass is a loving and visible sign of God’s love so visible in the lives of these couples. It adds to the joy of being a priest. I’m so glad we have this annual celebration.”

The Anniversary Blessing Masses are coordinated by the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life and made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Annual Catholic Appeal by the people of the Diocese.