To Honor and Cherish

Bishop reminds anniversary couples their marriage is a ‘Sacrament of God’

November 6, 2023 at 9:55 a.m.
Donna and Dan Mahoney of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, share a kiss during the Oct. 8 Mass in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photo
Donna and Dan Mahoney of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, share a kiss during the Oct. 8 Mass in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photo (Michael Ehrmann)


Sophia Cerullo had tears in her eyes when attending the Oct. 22 Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Mass.

A member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, Cerullo was happy to visit St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, for the very first time and witness her parents, Michael and Janet, renew their wedding vows before Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Anniversary Blessing Mass -- Monmouth-Ocean Counties

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Anniversary Blessing Mass -- Burlington-Mercer Counties

“We’re excited to receive the graces from the Bishop as he blesses us on our 25th anniversary, both as a couple and as a family,” Janet Cerullo said. “Today, we’re going to pray for an abundance of graces that will serve us as we look forward to our next 25 years.”

The Cerullos were among the nearly 300 couples from around the Diocese who attended the 2023 Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses. Bishop O’Connell celebrated a Mass Oct. 8 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, for couples from Monmouth and Ocean counties marking one, 25, or 50 or more years of marriage this year. The Oct. 22 Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral for couples from Burlington and Mercer counties.

Bishop’s Blessing

The Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses have been a standing favorite in the Diocese, providing an opportunity for 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.

“Your marriage has been something very human, fulfilling the desire in the hearts of all of us to share our lives with one another,” Bishop O’Connell said, “but your marriage has also been a Sacrament of God.

“This Sacrament has brought you together, keeps you together in a bond of love that has grown stronger, deeper, holier with the passage of time. Its ingredients are a mixture of patience, dedication and commitment, frustrations and tolerance, laughter and tears, work and rest, families with children or families with just the two of you, all blended together in the mystery and fulfillment of married love. It is up to you, with God’s grace, to embrace that marvelous recipe every day, all day,” the Bishop said.

Embracing the Sacrament of Matrimony

Couples shared a host of sentiments about all that it takes to make a marriage last and what it meant for them to celebrate their milestone with other couples also marking significant anniversaries.

Frank and Margaret Giampietro of St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, have been together for 70 years. They were all smiles when they learned they are the longest-married couple in the Diocese this year.

Before the Oct. 22 Mass in the Cathedral began, the couple enjoyed the chance to meet briefly with Bishop O’Connell; Msgr. Thomas Gervasio, diocesan vicar general; and Msgr. Dennis Apoldite, episcopal vicar of Mercer County, in the Cathedral rectory.

“This is such a nice thing to do,” Margaret Giampietro said of the Mass, then noted how pleased she and her husband were to have members of their family — which includes four children, nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren — in attendance. She added that she hopes she and Frank hope can set an example that hard work and keeping the faith can make marital longevity possible.

Frank Giampietro recalled a number of married couples — including their wife considered role models when they were preparing for marriage 70 years ago.

“We reached the point where we learned how to help each other without the other one asking,” he said.

“We’ve had ups and downs,” Margaret Giampietro added, “but we work through them together and we always respect each other.” She added that “it’s been through the grace of God” that the couple persevered.

Paul Tonacci of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, reflected on his first year of marriage to his wife, Maria.

“The Lord has a plan and you need to lean into that and trust,” he said. “It took me 37 years to find her, and I would wait 37 more years if I knew we would end up together.”

Maria Tonacci added that she and her husband are expecting their first child and “that has been our biggest blessing” in married life.

Keep the faith, keep your humor

The mantra Jacqueline and Richard Lopardo of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, have followed in their 60 years of marriage is “Be true to your faith.”

“Go to Mass together and pray together,” Jacqueline Lopardo said, reiterating that all couples should continuously rely on their Catholic faith.

Deacon Larry Finn of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, flashed a smile to his wife, Jodie, when he said that “saying ‘Yes dear’” is what he has learned during their 55 years of marriage.

“Seriously though, you do have to try and keep a sense of humor,” Deacon Finn said, while Jodie Finn added that along with abiding by their wedding vows, the couple vowed to realize that during their married life there would be times that “we will have to agree to disagree.”



Bishop O'Connell accepts the gifts from Deacon Larry Finn and his wife, Jodie, during the Oct. 22 Anniversary Blessing Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Hal Brown photo 


“I’ve enjoyed these 55 years of companionship,” Deacon Finn added.

“With the grace of God, and the Sacrament, we were able to live through some pretty challenging times,” Jodie Finn added. “We’re best friends.”

The main reason why Janis and Frank Stia of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton, attended the Anniversary Blessing Mass was that “God was part of our lives from our wedding day, our 50 years together, and God will continue to be part of our lives.

“Prayer has always been a comforting resource,” Frank Stia said. “Being together for 50 years, we’ve enjoyed so many events with family and friends, such as holiday gatherings, vacations and other special occasions, and we’ve always had each other to lean on in times of need.”

Marriages have challenges

Kathleen Weilbacker of Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, admitted that she and her husband, Thomas, have had their share of challenges during their 50 years of marriage.

Noting they were very young – 18 and 19 – when they married, then welcomed their newborn daughter, Elaine, the following year, the couple struggled to make ends meet financially.

“But we were happy and committed to building a good life together,” she said, noting that they persevered by pursuing higher education opportunities and holding down multiple jobs.

Along with enduring other hardships, including job losses and loss of family members, Kathleen Weilbacker recalled struggling with her Catholic faith, but said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed that.

“We had recently moved to California for a job and felt isolated and helpless during that time, but God was calling us back to him, and we followed,” she said. She noted that, at the time, her husband was not Catholic, but he eventually decided to enter the faith.

“And my faith is stronger now than it ever was before,” she said.

“If you really love and respect each other, that will carry you through any trials you may face,” is the advice she said she would give to couples preparing for marriage. “Always have dreams that may seem insurmountable now, but working together will help those dreams come true. It may require some hard work and lots of help from God, but if we can do it, you can too!”



Sophia Cerullo had tears in her eyes when attending the Oct. 22 Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Mass.

A member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, Cerullo was happy to visit St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, for the very first time and witness her parents, Michael and Janet, renew their wedding vows before Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Anniversary Blessing Mass -- Monmouth-Ocean Counties

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's Anniversary Blessing Mass -- Burlington-Mercer Counties

“We’re excited to receive the graces from the Bishop as he blesses us on our 25th anniversary, both as a couple and as a family,” Janet Cerullo said. “Today, we’re going to pray for an abundance of graces that will serve us as we look forward to our next 25 years.”

The Cerullos were among the nearly 300 couples from around the Diocese who attended the 2023 Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses. Bishop O’Connell celebrated a Mass Oct. 8 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, for couples from Monmouth and Ocean counties marking one, 25, or 50 or more years of marriage this year. The Oct. 22 Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral for couples from Burlington and Mercer counties.

Bishop’s Blessing

The Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Masses have been a standing favorite in the Diocese, providing an opportunity for 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.

“Your marriage has been something very human, fulfilling the desire in the hearts of all of us to share our lives with one another,” Bishop O’Connell said, “but your marriage has also been a Sacrament of God.

“This Sacrament has brought you together, keeps you together in a bond of love that has grown stronger, deeper, holier with the passage of time. Its ingredients are a mixture of patience, dedication and commitment, frustrations and tolerance, laughter and tears, work and rest, families with children or families with just the two of you, all blended together in the mystery and fulfillment of married love. It is up to you, with God’s grace, to embrace that marvelous recipe every day, all day,” the Bishop said.

Embracing the Sacrament of Matrimony

Couples shared a host of sentiments about all that it takes to make a marriage last and what it meant for them to celebrate their milestone with other couples also marking significant anniversaries.

Frank and Margaret Giampietro of St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, have been together for 70 years. They were all smiles when they learned they are the longest-married couple in the Diocese this year.

Before the Oct. 22 Mass in the Cathedral began, the couple enjoyed the chance to meet briefly with Bishop O’Connell; Msgr. Thomas Gervasio, diocesan vicar general; and Msgr. Dennis Apoldite, episcopal vicar of Mercer County, in the Cathedral rectory.

“This is such a nice thing to do,” Margaret Giampietro said of the Mass, then noted how pleased she and her husband were to have members of their family — which includes four children, nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren — in attendance. She added that she hopes she and Frank hope can set an example that hard work and keeping the faith can make marital longevity possible.

Frank Giampietro recalled a number of married couples — including their wife considered role models when they were preparing for marriage 70 years ago.

“We reached the point where we learned how to help each other without the other one asking,” he said.

“We’ve had ups and downs,” Margaret Giampietro added, “but we work through them together and we always respect each other.” She added that “it’s been through the grace of God” that the couple persevered.

Paul Tonacci of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, reflected on his first year of marriage to his wife, Maria.

“The Lord has a plan and you need to lean into that and trust,” he said. “It took me 37 years to find her, and I would wait 37 more years if I knew we would end up together.”

Maria Tonacci added that she and her husband are expecting their first child and “that has been our biggest blessing” in married life.

Keep the faith, keep your humor

The mantra Jacqueline and Richard Lopardo of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, have followed in their 60 years of marriage is “Be true to your faith.”

“Go to Mass together and pray together,” Jacqueline Lopardo said, reiterating that all couples should continuously rely on their Catholic faith.

Deacon Larry Finn of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, flashed a smile to his wife, Jodie, when he said that “saying ‘Yes dear’” is what he has learned during their 55 years of marriage.

“Seriously though, you do have to try and keep a sense of humor,” Deacon Finn said, while Jodie Finn added that along with abiding by their wedding vows, the couple vowed to realize that during their married life there would be times that “we will have to agree to disagree.”



Bishop O'Connell accepts the gifts from Deacon Larry Finn and his wife, Jodie, during the Oct. 22 Anniversary Blessing Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Hal Brown photo 


“I’ve enjoyed these 55 years of companionship,” Deacon Finn added.

“With the grace of God, and the Sacrament, we were able to live through some pretty challenging times,” Jodie Finn added. “We’re best friends.”

The main reason why Janis and Frank Stia of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton, attended the Anniversary Blessing Mass was that “God was part of our lives from our wedding day, our 50 years together, and God will continue to be part of our lives.

“Prayer has always been a comforting resource,” Frank Stia said. “Being together for 50 years, we’ve enjoyed so many events with family and friends, such as holiday gatherings, vacations and other special occasions, and we’ve always had each other to lean on in times of need.”

Marriages have challenges

Kathleen Weilbacker of Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, admitted that she and her husband, Thomas, have had their share of challenges during their 50 years of marriage.

Noting they were very young – 18 and 19 – when they married, then welcomed their newborn daughter, Elaine, the following year, the couple struggled to make ends meet financially.

“But we were happy and committed to building a good life together,” she said, noting that they persevered by pursuing higher education opportunities and holding down multiple jobs.

Along with enduring other hardships, including job losses and loss of family members, Kathleen Weilbacker recalled struggling with her Catholic faith, but said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed that.

“We had recently moved to California for a job and felt isolated and helpless during that time, but God was calling us back to him, and we followed,” she said. She noted that, at the time, her husband was not Catholic, but he eventually decided to enter the faith.

“And my faith is stronger now than it ever was before,” she said.

“If you really love and respect each other, that will carry you through any trials you may face,” is the advice she said she would give to couples preparing for marriage. “Always have dreams that may seem insurmountable now, but working together will help those dreams come true. It may require some hard work and lots of help from God, but if we can do it, you can too!”


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