By David Karas and Hal Brown | Correspondents
More than a dozen couples gathered in St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell, to celebrate milestone wedding anniversaries with a special Mass and reception Feb. 10.
The annual tradition occurred during National Marriage Week and on the eve of National Marriage Day.
“We have a standing tradition here at St. Alphonsus to [have] an anniversary party each year for those celebrating an anniversary in a multiple of five,” said parishioner Sue Hansen, who was celebrating 30 years of marriage with her husband, Eric. “My mother and I first did this probably 15 years ago; she asked me to join and help her, and now my daughter helps me.”
Photo Gallery: Anniversary Blessings in St. Alphonsus Parish
The Hansens joined fellow couples and faithful for Mass and a special blessing on the occasion of their anniversaries – which ranged from 25 to 55 years – along with a reception afterward.
Father Jarlath Quinn, parochial vicar, spoke about the importance of such celebrations.
“It is always good to recognize these milestones in our lives,” he said, also offering a reminder that the purpose of such gatherings “is to give thanks to God for all of the blessings he has bestowed upon us.”
He continued, “In all the Sacraments, we meet Christ and receive his grace. Especially in the Sacrament of Matrimony, it is not just that one event but indeed throughout the couples’ lives [that] the couples are an instrument, a conduit, of God’s grace.”
Hansen also reflected on the role that the parish has played in their marriage.
“We got married in this church ... [and] it is a joy and a treasure to still be here and to celebrate our anniversary and renew our vows every five years when it comes around,” she said.
George and Barbara Rovnyak said it is important to celebrate an anniversary not only between the two of them, but with the Church.
“The Church has been a part of our life, and integral part, from the day we were born,” he said, noting that he hopes their love and marriage could be an example for other couples in their parish. “We can’t force other people to do as we do but if they watch us, hopefully we can provide a good example.”
Father Quinn said it was humbling to learn more about the couples’ lives and journeys, noting that marriage takes continuous work and commitment – and that God is there to provide support.
“When they said ‘yes’ to one another, they did so in the sight of God,” he said. “There is nothing beyond the healing power of God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s grace.”
Stefan and Laura Ochalski were on hand to mark a quarter-century together as a married couple.
“Especially for us as a Catholic couple, it was very important to celebrate with other couples of the same faith,” Stefan Ochalski said, “and also [to] be in the house of God where it really all started for us.”
He added, “it was important for us to be here today.”
Video taken by freelance photographer Hal Brown contributed to this report.