“What a gift you are to the Church,” Bishop Nelson Perez told about 300 couples from across the eight-county Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
The bishop presided at a liturgy on Oct. 12 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland for couples throughout the diocese who were celebrating their 50th -- or in some cases more – wedding anniversaries. He asked for a show of hands for those who were marking various years of marriage.
“Close your eyes for a minute and remember what it was like when you first met,” he told the couples. Then he asked them to open their eyes. “And you’re still here,” he quipped.
Among those celebrating their golden anniversaries were eight permanent deacons from the diocese and their wives. They are: Deacon Dick and Judy Beercheck, Deacon Dave and Marianne Chordas, Deacon Larry and Catherine Gregg, Deacon James and Bernadette Kaniecki, Deacon Richard and Deborah Kuhlman, Deacon Rocky and Sonia Ortiz, Deacon John and Bernadette Sferry and Deacon Richard and Gloria Woods. Several of the deacons participated in the Mass by serving as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and the Kuhlmans brought the offertory gifts to the bishop.
“I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy,” Bishop Perez said to the couples, pointing out there always are ups and downs in life, as well as joys and sorrows. “Many of you experienced the joy of having children and some of you have been through the sorrow or agony of perhaps losing one,” he added.
“But when the Church looks at you today, it rejoices. You’ve been faithful to the sacrament of matrimony and you’re a visible sign of God’s humanity,” he said.
The bishop recalled the story of Adam and Eve – the first couple – in the Garden of Eden. He explained how God provided them with a wonderful place to live but instructed them not to touch the fruit of the forbidden tree.
“So, what did they do? They made a beeline for that tree,” he quipped, “and then they blamed each other and the snake.”
Years later, the bishop said, after much suffering, God heard the cry of the poor – his people – and sent Moses to deliver them. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and when he returned, the people were worshiping false gods.
“But our God is ever merciful, ever loving and forgiving. He gave his only son to save us,” Bishop Perez said. “We’ve all experienced God’s love and mercy.”
He said when the couples were married, they may have had some uncertainty, “But God was there with you through it all.” He told them that Pope Francis said God mirrored himself in them and they mirror God to the world.
“Thank you for being courageous, faithful signs of God’s love and fidelity – a sign that marriage does work. Congratulations,” Bishop Perez said.
After Mass, couples lined up and had a chance to take a photo with the bishop.
The annual anniversary Mass is organized by Marriage and Family Ministry, which is part of the diocese’s Parish Life and Development Office.
For more information on Parish Life and Development, click HERE.