Bishop Peter Ingham’s annual Marriage Anniversaries Mass this Sunday will be a triple celebration for the Weston family with parents, Ron and Alice, celebrating 60 years of marriage, while two of their children will be celebrating their 40th (Rhonda and Mark Breeze) and 25th (Leanne and Christopher Wilson) wedding anniversaries.
The Weston family, along with 78 other couples, have clocked up a staggering 3,583 years of married life: 21 couples are celebrating 25 years of marriage; 16 couples celebrating 40 years of marriage; 24 couples celebrating 50 years of marriage; 15 couples celebrating 60 years of marriage, a further four couples celebrating 61, 62, 64 and 65 years, and one couple celebrating the healthy milestone of 66 years of marriage.
Alice, who met Ron at a New Year’s Eve dance back in 1952, credits her mother as the greatest role model in her life. Alice said, “My mother mentored my sister and I wonderfully. She had a very strong faith and instilled in us a core belief of having respect for ourselves and others. She paved the way for us in our marriages.”
Not surprisingly, Rhonda and Leanne credit Alice and Ron as role models for their marriages. Rhonda met Mark at a Young Christian Workers (YCW) youth group at the Wollongong Cathedral over 40 years ago and they attended the first ever pre-marriage course run by CatholicCare (formerly Centacare). Her younger sister, Leanne, met Chris over 25 years ago at an Antioch youth group. Leanne said, “I think that the things we learn from our faith – Christian values such as compassion for others, respect and fairness have been an integral part of shaping our behaviour and have supported us through our marriage.”
When asked about the secret to staying together, Alice and Ron said, “It is important to be tolerant and accept each other for who we are. Everyone changes. When you marry, you are still growing as a person, so as you develop and change, being patient with each other is important.” Rhonda and Mark cited the importance of laughter and communication. Leanne and Chris agreed, saying, “The secret for us has been spending time talking with each other about the things that we value.”
And what advice would they give couples starting out on the marriage journey today? Rhonda and Mark had a simple reply, “Don’t bail at the first problem!” Leanne and Chris’ advice was particularly pertinent for couples in today’s modern world, “Make sure you put down the technology and spend time doing things together that you value. We work in the Marriage Relationship Team at CatholicCare so we would also recommend you attend a course to spend time together in the busy run-up to your wedding talking about your marriage.”
During the Mass, Bishop Peter Ingham will invite each couple to renew their marriage vows and each couple will receive a commemorative candle.
Bishop Ingham said of the annual event, “I love the Marriage Anniversaries Mass. It is an inspirational and powerful witness to the love and faithfulness displayed by these couples, enduring even through the tough times. This is something Pope Francis touched on in his General Audience on 2 April this year when he said, ‘It is true that there are so many difficulties in married life, so many, when there is insufficient work or money, when the children have problems. So much to contend with. And many times the husband and wife become a little fractious and argue between themselves. Yet we must not become saddened by this, this is the human condition. The secret is that love is stronger than the moment when there is arguing, and therefore I always advise spouses: do not let a day when you have argued end without making peace. Always! And to make peace it isn’t necessary to call the United Nations to come to the house and make peace. A little gesture is sufficient, a caress, and then let it be! Until tomorrow! And tomorrow begin again.’”
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.”
The CatholicCare Marriage and Relationship Education program runs Prepare and Partnership courses for couples getting married. Prepare provides couples with the opportunities to explore what they want out of their relationship, build on strengths and gain awareness of some potential problem areas. Partnership helps couples prepare for marriage and work-through issues before marriage. Both programs cover such topics as expectations of marriage, family of origin, communication, managing conflict, spirituality, sexuality and intimacy. Visit www.catholiccare.dow.org.au for more information.
The Marriage Anniversaries Mass will be held this Sunday 21 September at 2.00pm at St John Vianney’s Co-Cathedral, Fairy Meadow (Cabbage Tree Lane). Everyone is warmly invited to attend.