Married couples honored for being at ‘heart of Catholic evangelization’
October 01, 2012 at 1:27 PM
"This is a day of celebration of a milestone – whether your anniversary is five or 71 years. It is a day for us to celebrate years of fidelity, years of sanctity and years of missionary moments," said Bishop John Barres Sept. 30 at the 33nd Annual Diocesan Anniversary Mass at St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield.
Bishop Barres was principal celebrant and homilist during the Eucharistic celebration where an estimated 150 couples renewed their wedding vows and were honored for more than 6,600 years of marriage.
Bishop Barres opened his homily by explaining that the celebration coincides with a unique time in the Catholic Church in U.S. history with the approaching Synod on New Evangelization in Rome, Year of Faith beginning Thursday, Oct. 11 and the call from U.S Catholic bishops "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility."
Like all the faithful, married couples are called to bring the Gospels to the ends of the earth through their witness and action, noted Bishop Barres.
"Married couples are at the heart of Catholic evangelization," said Bishop Barres.
Reiterating the words of Pope John Paul II, Bishop Barres reminded the couples that marriage is "fundamentally a missionary vocation," and said their spiritual chemistry, emotional chemistry and physical chemistry emanates the faith to the people around them.
"Marriage is also a missionary vocation because of your willingness as individuals to lay down your lives for Jesus Christ so you can lay down your lives for your family," he said.
As the couples reflected on their successful marriages, Bishop Barres urged them to "up the ante."
"Ask the Holy Spirit how to help you push a little farther in spreading the dynamics of the Catholic faith," he suggested.
Bishop Barres also asked the couples to contemplate another couple within their sphere of influence who has drifted away from the church for one reason or another.
"Invite them back to the celebration of the faith. Invite them in context of friendship. It might not always be accepted. But we know it becomes a beautiful act of charity because it is an expression of love," he said.
Gus and Jeanne Orphanides, parishioners of St. Joseph, attended the Mass in commemoration of their 45th wedding anniversary and to renew their wedding vows with the other couples who received the sacrament of matrimony.
"Marriage is indeed a sacrament and the fastest way to sanctity," said Jeanne as she smiled alongside her husband.
"It also underscores a commitment to someone else and unselfishness," said Gus.
The Oprhanides said they weathered ups and downs throughout more than four decades, and attribute their steadfast commitment to appreciating each other for the person they are.
"It's about evaluating each other's gifts and not focusing on flaws," said Jeanne.
And their advice to other couples facing struggles?
"Don't ever give up," said Jeanne.
"Let the burdens be shared and don't allow them to pull you apart," she said.
The Mass honored couples celebrating five, 10, 25, 40, 50 and 60 or more years of marriage.
Carl and Jean Hafer, parishioners of St. Jerome, Tamaqua, who observed their 71st wedding anniversary, were recognized as the longest married couple.
The majority of couples honored at the celebration were 90 couples married for 50 or more years.