The jubilant strains of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” filled the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, where married couples gathered on Sunday for the annual Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass, celebrated by Bishop Alfred Schlert.
The Mass was especially joyous for the 121 couples observing milestone anniversaries. They were invited to recite a “reaffirmation of vows,” giving public witness to the Sacrament of Marriage and to God’s “covenant … with humankind.”
“A vocation to the priesthood is born and nourished in the family,” said Bishop Schlert in his homily, “and the family is strongest in the Sacrament of Matrimony.”
The connection is vital, since “Without the priesthood, there is no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist, there is no Church.”
Patricia and Wayne Searles, celebrating their 40th anniversary of marriage, are the parents of Father Mark Searles, the Diocesan Director of Vocations. Patricia said that parents who want to nurture religious vocations must “sow the seed of faith.”
“When children witness the love of their mother and father, it can be a reflection of the love Christ shared with all of us. The love of giving and receiving, the joys and the sorrows, the sacrifices that sometimes need to be made. These are all examples of how Christ loved us.”
Of the anniversary couples, 59 were married 50 years or more. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bethlehem parishioners Thomas and Marie Lococo, celebrating their 72nd anniversary this year, were recognized as the longest-married couple. The total number of married years represented by the 121 couples was 5,080.
Bishop Schlert offered encouragement to parents whose children have left the Church.
“By your love and your prayers, grace can act in their lives. Continue to accompany them. And know that, by your love, you’re expressing the love and the welcome that the Church has for them.”
The Bishop reminded all couples to “pray with and for each other. That’s really the language of love – the language of Catholic marriage – prayer and reception of the Sacraments.”
Ronald and Sally Lerch, parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy, Easton, married 60 years, agreed that prayer is essential to a sacramental marriage. “We were always there at Mass together, always holding hands,” said Sally. “And he’s a convert!”
Explained Ronald, “Monsignor said, ‘The door’s always open,’ so within a few months, I became Catholic.”
Bishop Schlert stressed the importance of a family life centered on Christ – “a community of life, what the Church calls a domestic church, the church at home. That’s where everything we do in the life of the parish, the diocese, and the Church begins.”
Rhady and David Tulloch, parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus, Allentown, established their domestic church on their wedding day, May 23, 2020. The date matched their favorite Scripture verse, Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is himself its Savior.” The Tullochs regularly pray together “The Litany of the Holy Spouses,” in addition to the Rosary.
“The transfiguration is just such a beautiful mystery,” said Rhady. “You should always have ‘Tabor vision’ of your spouse (from Mount Tabor in the Gospel story of the Transfiguration), to say ‘This is fully God in you that I’m seeing right now.’”
“You have found love. You have found faith,” said Bishop Schlert in closing. “And the Church rejoices with you in it. And we pray that that love and that faith might be always every day stronger for you, stronger for your families, and therefore stronger for the Church.”
After Mass, the couples who had registered in advance received certificates from Bishop Schlert. A video of the Anniversary Mass may be viewed on the Diocese of Allentown Facebook and YouTube pages.