By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
Couples celebrating their milestone first, 25th, 50th anniversaries and higher in 2018 will have their marriages blessed by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrant and homilist for the annual diocesan Anniversary Blessing Masses.
“People think it’s very special; we always have couples celebrating different milestone anniversaries,” said Peg Hensler, associate director of Marriage Ministries and NFP for the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life. “I think people recognize it’s [unique] to be blessed by the Bishop.”
The Masses will take place at 3 p.m. Oct. 7 and Oct. 21. Couples in Ocean and Monmouth Counties will be recognized during the Oct. 7 Mass in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, 61 Georgia Road, Freehold. Couples from Burlington and Mercer Counties will be celebrated during the Oct. 21 Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, 149 N. Warren St., Trenton. A reception will follow both Masses for the couples, families and community; couples will also receive a certificate of recognition.
The Anniversary Blessings Mass tradition, arranged by the diocesan Office of Worship and sponsored by Evangelization and Family Life, has been an annual event for years.
“The Mass includes reaffirmation of vows, in accordance with the new order of celebrating matrimony,” Hensler explained, “and of course the episcopal blessing the Bishop offers to the couples.”
Last year, about 275 couples attended the two Masses; those registered for the 2018 Masses number even more, Hensler said.
“People are coming from all over the Diocese, and there’s an [understanding] that they’re part of something bigger,” Hensler said. “They’re recognized from the greater Church, which has a connection to the Church of the United States and the global Church.”
The Anniversary Blessing Masses used to take place in spring following Easter, but were moved to mid-October for scheduling reasons. The importance of the episcopal blessing, Hensler said, was one of historic note.
“[Bishop O’Connell] is the shepherd of the Diocese, and he represents the notion of apostolic succession, that connection to the ancient Church,” Hensler said. “Being blessed by the Bishop is really a remarkable event in the life of a marriage.”
Couples must register for their county’s Mass through their home parishes. The registration deadline has been extended to Sept. 21. For more information, contact Hensler at 609-403-7156, firstname.lastname@example.org.