SOUTH END -- In the biggest turnout in a decade, over 220 couples participated June 7 in the annual Golden and Silver Wedding Anniversary Celebration Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
The celebration began when the anniversary couples entered the cathedral, adorned with corsages and boutonnieres and accompanied by family members and friends. More than half of the group was there to renew their wedding vows after 50 years of marriage and the rest present to renew their sacramental promises after 25 years. Three couples were even there to celebrate 60 years of married life.
At the Mass, which was also celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the anniversary couples listened as the Liturgy spoke of the Mystery of God’s love within the Trinity, in terms of unity, love and eternal covenant.
A focal point of the Mass readings -- God’s admonishment to keep his commandments so the Israelites and their children after them may have long lives on the land that the Lord had given them -- set the tone for the anniversary celebration as one rooted in the importance of the Trinity as the foundation of their Catholic faith and their lives.
In his homily, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said that Jesus uses the image of the Trinity to call us to discipleship, in unity and in community. He told the couples that their marriages are signs to the world of that unity and an invitation to others to embrace the life of discipleship.
“You, by your discipleship and living in relationship with the Trinity -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- in your Christian marriage, are the archetypes of a civilization of love,” said the cardinal.
Marriage begins a conversation that will last a lifetime, he said.
He went on to make an analogy between the couples’ marriages and the covenant God made to man after the flood of Noah, when he put a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of the promise he would never break.
“When you married 25 years ago, or 50 years ago, you put a rainbow on each other’s finger as a sign of the covenant of love that you were making,” said Cardinal O’Malley.
“Your wedding promises were a covenant with God, with each other, with your family and with the whole community,” he said.
In closing, the cardinal called the couples to continue their roles as witnesses to God’s love and unity in the world.
“Be joyful witnesses of that great sacrament. Encourage young people to embrace marriage as a vocation, as a way of life, as a special way to be Christ’s disciples and to build up the human family and Christ’s family, the Church,” he urged them.
“Where marriage is weakened, all of society is diminished,” he said. “But where marriage is strong, society is strong.”
After delivering his homily, Cardinal O’Malley called the golden and silver anniversary celebrants to stand and renew their wedding vows.
“You stand before us today as witnesses to the married love, which Christ abundantly blessed on your wedding day,” he said.
The 220 couples then turned to each other, joined hands and recalled the vows they had spoken so many years before.
In the face of the decreasing number of marriages being celebrated each year in the U.S. and in the Archdiocese of Boston, which alone recorded a more than 65 percent decline between 1986 to 2008, the golden and silver anniversary jubilarians represent visual reminders of Christ’s love for the Church, said Kari Colella, coordinator of Marriage Ministries for the Archdiocese of Boston.
“I am always encouraged, year after year, by the witness of the anniversary couples,” said Colella.
“As a couple renewed their vows near where I was sitting, I could see in their eyes the meaning with which they said the words to one another--it was very beautiful,” she added.
Reflecting on the ceremony, Colella said she was struck by the number of family and friends who came to celebrate with the couples.
“It was obvious, again in a concrete visual way, that love is fruitful in bringing about and caring for new life, being a part in the development of society and sharing in the life of the Church,” she said.
Janyne and Jason Hibbard, from St. James Parish in Stoughton, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with their two daughters by their sides.
Jason recalled the moment he renewed his vows to his wife.
“She had me all over again,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
Their daughters, Laurel and Jessica, both college students, described their parents’ marriage as “perfection, a fairy-tale.”
“We’re so proud of them, you know, defying all the odds, all the statistics. It’s truly an honor to have parents that have made it this far, and we look forward to having 25 more years,” said Jessica, who will be a senior at Bryant University next fall.
“I hope to have a marriage like that someday,” she said. “Truly.”
Copies of the jubilarians’ photos may be obtained at www.thebostonpilot.com or by calling 617-746-5892.