PROVIDENCE — The Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul hosted the Diocese of Providence’s annual Wedding Anniversary celebration on Sunday, Oct. 16, honoring some 160 couples from 66 parishes throughout Rhode Island. In addition to celebrating Mass, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin led the pairs in renewing their wedding vows, echoing the promises they made to one another as many as 75 years ago.
Catholic families celebrating at least 25 years of marriage were invited to the ceremony, which was organized by the diocesan Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment and included three couples who had been together for more than 70 years. These milestone anniversaries will be recognized with special Apostolic Blessings which the diocese has requested from the Vatican.
In his homily, Bishop Tobin encouraged those attending to reflect on how their marriage has helped them to learn and grow. “When you think back over all the years you have been together, and the challenges, difficulties, and problems you have experienced, I’m sure that the passage of years has given you a certain wisdom or perspective about life,” he said.
In a reception after the Mass, several couples were happy to share that wisdom with Rhode Island Catholic while waiting to have their photos taken with the bishop.
“The secret to a successful marriage is balance,” explained Elizabeth Culpney, of Sacred Heart Parish in East Providence. She and her husband Tom were at the cathedral to celebrate 55 years of marriage. “I can get cross easily, so the reason we work well together is that Tom is so agreeable. He keeps me mellow.”
True to his part, Tom responded with a quiet smile and a nod.
The Culpneys were accompanied by Father AC Peri, SdC, the assistant pastor at Sacred Heart.
“I’m only 38, so they’ve spent more time together as a couple than I’ve been alive,” said Father Peri with a laugh. “They’ve taken very good care of me since I was installed here: Tom is a trustee of the parish, and Elizabeth teaches in our school. She was my English tutor when I first arrived.”
Deacon Paul Shea, of St. Paul Church in Cranston, met his wife Gertrude on a blind date; five decades later, the couple have raised three children together. The pair cited patience as the most important virtue for couples to practice.
Two other deacons were among the husbands honored in Sunday’s ceremony: Deacon Robert Morriseau, of St. Peter’s Church, and Deacon John Baker of SS. Rose and Clement, both in Warwick.
Many of the couples attended with children and grandchildren in tow, with the Deascentis family of Jesus Savior Parish in Newport achieving the uncommon accomplishment of a multigenerational anniversary: Hugo Sr., and Serafina celebrated 75 years together, while Hugo Jr., and wife Sheila commemorated their 40th anniversary.
Some pairs present on Sunday had shared marriage journeys not only of years, but of miles. Half a century ago and half a world away, Antonio and Anna Del Bove grew up as childhood sweethearts in Itri, Italy. Like many of their neighbors, the couple relocated to Itri’s sister city of Cranston, where they are parishioners at St. Mary Church.
“Raising a family together takes three things: patience, understanding, and faith,” Anna said. Antonio added this bit of practical advice: “Say ‘yes’ to your partner every time you can.”
A slight variation on this suggestion was offered by Maunel Brandao, of St. Joseph Parish in Woonsocket. After 60 years of marriage to his wife, Virginia, Brandao summarized the key to marital bliss as follows: “Any time we have a disagreement, any time we have any kind of argument at all, I make absolutely sure that I get the last word in. The last two words, in fact: ‘Yes, dear.’”