Physically and spiritually, Catholic couples on the South Bend side of the diocese joined together Sunday, Oct. 11, at St. Matthew Cathedral to thank God and celebrate their anniversaries of 25, 40, 50 or 60 years of marriage. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades presided at the special Mass.
A reception that usually takes place after the annual anniversary Mass was canceled due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The omission did not diminish the gratitude and authentic Christian love that were clearly present at the Mass.
“Anniversary couples, you are a blessing for the Church because you have been a witness to God’s love and fidelity,” Bishop Rhoades preached. “You have persevered in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. You have persevered in love. You have opened your hearts and continue to open your hearts to the Lord’s grace you received in the sacrament of marriage.”
Jane Rowe agreed. She and her husband, Larry, of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Bristol — married 60 years this year — have found everyday faithfulness and each other’s loving presence to be key in their relationship.
“Just being there for each other, in the good times and sad times, and knowing God was with us also, has been most important. We can’t ask for more than that,” Jane said with a smile.
Bishop Rhoades reminded the faithful where their present journey together is directed.
“Couples, may you continue to walk together on this journey, helping each other, encouraging each other, caring for each other, and respecting each other. Your journey has a destination. That destination is heaven. Remember your task in marriage is to help each other get to heaven,” he taught.
“The Lord gives us food for that journey to heaven, food that nourishes us and strengthens us on the journey. That food is His very Body and Blood in the holy Eucharist, the sacrament of His love. It’s so important that you’ve come here to God’s house to celebrate your anniversary at Mass. The Eucharist is the memorial with which Christ the bridegroom loved His bride, the Church. He loved us to the end!”
Always attending to church together is also vital to the Rowe’s marriage. Married in 1960 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Goshen, Larry became Catholic 10 years later, which was very special to Jane. Receiving together Jesus’ body and blood in holy Eucharist has united them in an even deeper way for these last 50 years, Jane said. They have raised three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild in the faith.
Christine and Chris Baglow of St. Joseph Parish, South Bend, find strength and renewal in the Eucharist and the sacraments as well. Christine said of her husband, “Truthfully, Chris is really spectacular at the whole ‘husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church,’ thing. He is very intentional about putting me first. I’ve learned a lot from him in that way.”
Married for 25 years, the Baglows recently moved from New Orleans, where they were born, baptized and raised their four children, to South Bend. They met for the first time at a Catholic conference in New Orleans, introduced by a mutual match-making-obsessed friend named Carol Fee.
“We just knew we were supposed to be together. We had dated briefly when we first met and then were friends, running in the same groups. So we’d been friends for four years before we got together for the second time. God just put the pieces in place.”
Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily with putting God’s love into action, each and every day in one’s marriage.
“St. Paul also invites the Colossians, as God’s chosen ones, which all of us are as baptized Christians, to ‘put on’ a quintet of virtues. He says: ‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ These are the clothes we are to put on in our Christian life; they are the virtues that not only make marriage work, they make it holy. You help each other to become holy by living these virtues, with the help of God’s grace. That’s Christian marriage: helping each other to become holy by being compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. And bearing with one another and forgiving one another … You have learned to give of yourselves to the other, doing good for the other, helping and serving the other. As St. Ignatius of Loyola said: ‘Love is shown more by deeds than by words.’”
Jane said exactly that of her husband, Larry. “He is so giving, always willing to help me, the children, our neighbors.”
Reflecting back on their relationship together, love in action has helped transform trials for many of the anniversary couples.
“The biggest challenges in our life together are also some of our greatest blessings,” the Baglows realized. “We have two children with special needs plus all the ordinary, day-to-day challenges of parenting any child. Our home flooded in Hurricane Katrina, which was rough for us, but it also made us much stronger as a couple. We suffered some pretty significant losses in our 25 years together, but those also have caused us to turn toward one another rather than allowing them to drive us apart.”
“People bring their own emotional, psychological, spiritual, and familial baggage with them into marriage,” Christine continued. “We all have wounds and brokenness. Chris and I are fortunate that we each married a person deeply committed to supporting the other’s personal growth and healing.”
Brent and Kathy Jagla, of St. Jude Parish, South Bend, were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. Born and raised in South Bend, they found that “our biggest challenge led to our greatest blessing,” said Kathy. “From the time we were married we were open to having children and as many as God had planned for us. Unfortunately we were not biologically able to conceive. We prayed to discern how our journey should proceed and then placed our names with Catholic Social Services in South Bend to adopt a child. We had a long five-year wait, but in 1987 we received a call that we would be able to pick up our 7-day-old son! God blessed us with the most perfect child imaginable. From our son Stephen, we were further blessed with his beautiful wife, Gracie, and now with our granddaughter. It has made all other difficulties we have faced in our marriage disappear.”
The words of St. Paul echo true in the Jaglas’ life experiences as well. The couple live out the quintet of virtues, laughing and joking with one another, demonstrating how both opposites attract and help each other become prepared for heaven.
“Our best advice to newlyweds is always to keep our Lord as the center of your lives and live His Gospel in all you say and do. Make sure you make each other laugh more than you cause tears!”
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