SOUTH BEND — Celebrating couples reaching milestone anniversaries in their marriage, the annual Anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was held on Sunday, Sept. 22, at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend.
Bishop Rhoades welcomed the couples and thanked them for their faithful witness to the Lord in the sacrament of Marriage.
God established marriage as a special reflection of His love.
Bishop Rhoades told the faithful in the homily, “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love (is) the icon (or image) of the relationship between God and His people…” (USCCB II). When we think of God’s love and Christian marital love, we realize that it is not merely a sentiment or emotion. It involves both our intellect and our will. And it is something that is never finished and complete. It grows and matures through life, through ups and downs, joys and sorrows. Our anniversary couples can testify to this. It involves sacrifice. We see this in Jesus and His Passion and crucifixion — the total gift of Jesus the Bridegroom to His Bride, the Church. It’s what Pope Benedict called ‘love in its most radical form.’”
St. Paul called upon husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church — totally, unto death.
“This is what you who are married promised when you exchanged your wedding vows: to love and honor each other until death do you part,” Bishop Rhoades said. “You pledged your love and fidelity for as long as you live.”
“This mutual married love is an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves mankind,” he said. “Of course, we know that because of human sinfulness, our love is never as pure and deep as God’s perfect love. Yet, with the help of God’s grace in the sacrament of Marriage, you receive the strength and power to grow in love.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that couples receive grace from Marriage: “Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ, and to love one another with supernatural, tender and fruitful love.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “The Mass is the perfect way to celebrate these wedding anniversaries because the Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of love.”
“We pray for all our anniversary couples,” Bishop Rhoades said, “that their love may continue to grow and that they may continue to cling to the unconditional promise they made on their wedding days. May God ‘who is love’ abide always in your hearts! May the love of Christ, present in the Holy Eucharist, move all married couples and all of us to ever greater heights of love!”
One couple celebrating a special anniversary this year is Laszlo and Clara Kocsis. They were married on Dec. 6, 1953 in Marqota, Hungary, and celebrating their 60th anniversary. The couple was married during communist rule in the small town where Clara grew up.
“At the time many couples didn’t want their names recorded in the church marriage book for fear of repercussions from the government. When the priest asked my husband if he wanted our names recorded, he gave a resounding, ‘Yes, Father.’ I knew that I had married a man of principle,” said Clara.
The couple settled down and began a family, but they feared for their safety. Lazlo had served with the freedom fighters during the war and had even been a prisoner. Under government oppression and often persecution of Christians, Lazlo and Clara dreamed of a better life for their growing family. Lazlo had several cousins in South Bend and they decided to leave everything they had ever known and migrate to the United States.
“At the time the United States government was eager to help people escape from communist rule,” said Lazlo. “If you had a sponsor to help you, like we did, it made the process go faster.” In fact the couple and their two small children, Gabriella and Kinga spent a month in Austria and Germany and then were able to come to the United States.
“What a surprise it was to arrive in an open society. It was so different coming from a communist society. We arrived with the clothes on our backs and two small bags for the children. We were ready to start a new life,” said Clara.
“It was a very brave thing my parents did for our family,” said Gabriella, the couple’s oldest daughter. “To leave all they knew behind to come to another country to make a better life for us, my brothers and sisters and I know how lucky we are to have parents like them.”
Lazlo and Clara have five children, 11 grandchildren, and they recently all visited Prince Edward Island together to celebrate the couple’s anniversary. “It was a wonderful trip,” said Clara. “We are so blessed to have such a wonderful family.”
The couple credits their long marriage to “our faith in God and our similar backgrounds. We both grew up with the same faith and family values. We are lucky and we have been blessed,” said Lazlo.
“It’s special to celebrate this anniversary,” Clara said. “We are happy to have our marriage blessed again at the special Mass.”
Other couples in attendance shared the Kocsis family’s views about the Mass. “What a beautiful celebration of marriage,” said Elizabeth Stanson. “My husband Jeff and I have been married for 10 years. We have made it a tradition to come to this Mass every year. It reminds us of the strength we have in our marriage with Christ. It is also so inspiring to see the couples here celebrating real milestones in their lives.”
Tom and Theresa Byszewski were also celebrating their anniversary. They were married 25 years ago at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. “The Mass was wonderful. It’s nice that our Church recognizes the great achievement these couples have made. It’s also nice to see so many couples here celebrating today,” said Tom.
The Mass was followed by a reception for the couples and their families where Bishop Rhoades posed for photos with many of the couples.
The Fort Wayne anniversary Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sept. 15.
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