What’s the secret to a happy and lasting marriage? Why not ask Bruce and Paulene Creenaune who are celebrating 65 years of marriage and will be honoured along with 71 other couples at the Diocese of Wollongong’s annual Marriage Anniversaries Mass this weekend at St John Vianney’s Catholic Church, Fairy Meadow.
When asked this question, Bruce and Paulene said, “Generally we’re not ones for giving advice out to others. Although the times have changed, the fundamentals are the same – marriage is about give and take, it’s about communicating with each other, respecting each other’s points of view and about being there for the other person.
“We both see ourselves very much within the context of our broader family and agree that it’s the bonds of the family we have that has kept us together. When times are tough or when big decisions need to be made, we always do it together and with our family’s love and support. Our faith has also been a big part of our lives. We grew up in the faith and continued to carry it into our marriage. Prayer in particular has been a great source of comfort in difficult times.”
It is hard to comprehend that Bruce and Paulene met only two years after the end of World War II. They lived in the small country town of Gilgandra NSW where their families knew each other. They met at a bush dance for the Bush Fire Brigade in a little town called Biddon, not far from Gilgandra. Over the next four years they only saw each other from time-to-time as Bruce was often away cooking for shearers across Central-West NSW. When they did have time together they usually went to country dances, the movies and played tennis with family and friends.
Bruce said, “Paulene and I saw the way both our parents lived out their married lives and their sense of family influenced us to follow their example.”
After they married, Bruce and Paulene moved to Dubbo NSW where Bruce got a job with the Postmaster General’s Department. It was happy times at Dubbo as they celebrated the birth of their first daughter. The great Dubbo Flood of 1955 sparked a turning point in their life and they packed up and moved to Sydney. Fourteen years and another four children later, Bruce and Paulene relocated to Wollongong, a place they were familiar with as they had spent many happy family holidays camping at different places down the coast.
Paulene said, “During our time in Wollongong now with six children, parenting was ‘full-on’ all the time. The children’s education was always a priority for our family. Educating your children in Catholic schools in those days also meant a lot of volunteer work at the school which we willingly took part in. The community life of the parish and school was the way in which we made friends and formed connections with other people.”
During the early years in Wollongong, Paulene gave her time sewing for the school every Tuesday as well as working in the tuck shop and teaching Scripture at a local public school. Paulene still teaches Scripture each week. In 1972, Paulene began volunteering at Edmund Rice College before eventually working in the front office until 1991.
This is just one of 72 stories that could be told of the amazing couples being honoured this weekend at St John Vianney’s. When asked what it means to attend the Marriage Anniversaries Mass, Paulene said, “It feels very special to be honoured in this way. It seems like a way of affirming the simple things we have tried to live out in our everyday lives, like the importance of family and of maintaining caring relationships with each other.”
During the Mass, each couple will be invited to renew their marriage vows and receive a commemorative candle. Bishop Ingham said of the annual event, “I love the Marriage Anniversaries Mass. If you want to know the secret to an enduring marriage, just ask any one of these couples. They are an inspirational and powerful witness to love and faithfulness, enduring even through the tough times.”
Bishop Ingham, while affirming the value of marriage, also expressed his admiration for single parent families and those providing guardianship and foster care for children as well as those married couples unable to have children. Bishop Ingham said, “There are many challenges facing marriages and families today. I am particularly humbled by the sacrifices of love which single parents make for their children, and the generosity of couples and families in the work they do in the wider community.”