August 31, 2023 // Diocese

St. Monica Couples Celebrate 50th Wedding Anniversaries

Janet Lattrez met her husband, Eric, when they were on a November trip with a Catholic young adult club. He was sitting in the front seat on the bus, and she joined him to say hi. The rest is history. The two were engaged three months later in February and married that summer, in August of 1973.

Eric and Janet Lattrez, as well as another couple, Craig and Karen Baldini, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries on Friday, August 18. Both couples were married on the same day, and both couples now attend St. Monica Catholic Church in Mishawaka. The Lattrezes and Baldinis renewed their wedding vows at their home parish after the vigil Mass on Saturday, August 19.

Both couples met in the South Bend area, where they have lived most of their lives. Craig and Karen Baldini’s relationship began right after high school (they were married soon after), but their story began even earlier. “We grew up in the same neighborhood and knew each other most of our lives,” Karen said. “I always say I married the cutest boy in the neighborhood,” she said with a laugh. “He lived behind me and down two houses.”

Kasia Balsbaugh
Father Jason Freiburger, left, and Father Toby Agha officiate at the renewal of wedding vows for the 50th wedding anniversaries of Eric and Janet Lattrez and Craig and Karen Baldini at St. Monica Church in Mishawaka on Saturday, August 19. Both couples were married on August 18, 1973.

Craig Baldini had gone to grade school at St. Monica Catholic Church, and his family had attended the church his whole life. When the two were married, Karen was and always had been Episcopalian. When Karen converted to Catholicism four years into their marriage, partly due to the witness of Craig’s family, she in turn bore witness to her husband, who became more invested in their home church and the Faith. Karen is grateful to Craig’s family as well as women at St. Monica’s for their support of her as a young bride and mother, and for encouraging her in the Catholic faith. Craig and Karen have attended St. Monica Catholic Church ever since.

Eric and Janet Lattrez met in a group of Catholic young adults. Their Catholic adult club fostered more marriages than just their own. Janet recalled other couples from the group that were married in the area and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries this year, as well.

Photo provided by Eric and Janet Lattrez
Eric and Janet Lattrez on their wedding day, August 18, 1973. The two were married at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend.

Eric and Janet were both working when they met and got married – he in manufacturing and she in teaching, a career she would keep throughout her life. During their whirlwind courtship, Janet was in school, traveling abroad, and planning the wedding, and the two were both working full-time as well as designing and hiring a company to build their house. The house was done a week before the wedding. “It was the fastest house they ever built,” Janet said.

Janet taught at several different Catholic schools in the area during her career, and the couple attended several different Catholic churches in the area, from St. Matthew Cathedral, where they were married, to St. Monica, where they attend currently.

When looking back at how people in the church have viewed marriage throughout her lifetime, Karen Baldini said she has seen an increase in young people in the church community who take marriage seriously. “I see these young couples that are courting and together, so not of the secular world,” she said. She added, “I think before, people always got married for love, but they didn’t think so much about whether your partner was faithful to God and going to church. Not just, ‘I really like this guy,’ … but more, ‘this is who God has chosen for me.’” She said this observation is “very heartening,” and that it “makes your heart smile to see people going at it in the way God wanted you to do it.”

As for marriage advice, Eric and Janet Lattrez tell married couples to simply “do things” together. “Go on vacations and things in your marriage when you can do them,” Janet said. Not even having their son stopped the Lattrezes from traveling – they just took him with them on their vacations. For a couple that has faced health challenges and hospital visits in the past year, the Lattrezes are happy that they took the chance to travel earlier in their lives.

Photo provided by Craig and Karen Baldini
Craig and Karen Baldini on their wedding day at St. Monica Catholic Church in Mishawaka, August 18, 1973.

Craig and Karen Baldini grew into their faith lives together, and they believe that if you can begin marriage in union with God, it provides a strong foundation for a relationship and help prepare couples for whatever might come their way. Looking back on their younger selves and early marriage, Karen laughed. She said: “We’ve done a lot of things wrong you know? You don’t do everything right; you learn as you go.”

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