Couples bring marriages fully into church with convalidation

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BOSTON -- Matthew Perachi met the love of his life at a Red Sox game.

He crossed paths with Hannah Salamon when their respective friend groups brought them to Fenway Park, and from there, they both discovered that the other was the one.

"She went to rock music festivals with me without complaining," Matthew, 29, told The Pilot.

"And he always made me laugh and have a positive outlook on things," Hannah, also 29, told The Pilot. "We could talk about things and it wasn't ever awkward."

Matthew and Hannah married on New Year's Eve 2023 in a civil ceremony. They wanted to be married within the Catholic Church, but due to scheduling conflicts, they couldn't.

"It didn't feel like we were truly married with just a civil marriage," Hannah said.

That is why they and eight other couples attended a convalidation ceremony, celebrated by Bishop Mark O'Connell, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on Feb. 11, World Marriage Sunday. The ceremony was organized by Liz Cotrupi and Emily Elliott of the Archdiocese of Boston's Family Life Office.

Through the ceremony of convalidation, the couples were married in the Catholic Church.

In his homily, Bishop O'Connell compared convalidation to the Gospel he chose for the ceremony -- the wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine.

"The water was plain, and the water became beautiful," he said. "What Jesus did, he also will do today to your marriage."

He explained that God was always a part of the couples' marriages, but through convalidation, their marriages would be sacramental.

"Here at your marriage in the church," he said, "you walk in a wonderful couple, and you walk out with the grace of the sacrament. What's the difference? You'll find out."

He called convalidation "a new and powerful prayer," which couples could use to strengthen their marriages through good and bad times.

"If you believe that God will help you," he said, "I promise you, God will. God heals when people have faith."

One at a time, each couple, accompanied by their friends and loved ones, stood before the altar. Bishop O'Connell asked the couples if they came of their own free will, and were prepared to be faithful to one another in marriage for the rest of their lives. They all said yes. Through smiles, laughter, and tears, they held hands and exchanged vows. Their wedding rings were blessed with a sprinkling of holy water, and their marriage was officially valid within the Catholic Church. When all of the couples had exchanged vows and rings, Bishop O'Connell invited each groom to kiss his bride.

Bishop O'Connell, all of the couples, and their families prayed for one another and for the success of the couples' marriages. They then prayed the Our Father, and Bishop O'Connell prayed the nuptial blessings for the couples.

"My celebration has ended," Bishop O'Connell told them. "You are newly married in the church, congratulations!"

For Donal Cahill, whose daughter Jacqueline convalidated her marriage to John Camuso, the ceremony was the perfect birthday present. When his daughter and son-in-law asked him what he wanted for his Feb. 9 birthday, he said he wanted them to be married within the Catholic Church. He and his "good friends," the Missionaries of Charity in Dorchester, prayed that their marriage would be convalidated. When it came to pass, Cahill invited some Missionaries of Charity to attend the ceremony.

"It's the happiest day," he told The Pilot. "I'm so full of joy."

Jacqueline, 34, and John, 36, were coworkers at a Boston software company when they met. He fell in love with her smile. She fell in love with his personality and work ethic. They married outside the church in 2020.

"(Convalidation) was important to my family, and we thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on our marriage and renew our vows," Jacqueline said.

For Alana Santarelli, who convalidated her 2022 marriage to her husband Jake, "it kind of feels like it's come full-circle."

Her uncle was a priest, and she always imagined that he would be the one to celebrate their marriage. When her uncle died, that was no longer a possibility. She told The Pilot that her uncle was there in spirit as she and Jake officially married within the church.

Jake, 33, and Alana, 30, met through mutual friends. Alana fell in love with Jake's sense of humor and his patience. Jake fell in love with Alana's Type A personality. The two were totally different, but they fell in love anyway. Both said that their faith played a huge role in strengthening their relationship.

"For me, it kind of forced me to be more patient in decision-making," Jake told The Pilot.

"For me, it's been taking a more meditative approach to life," Alana told The Pilot.

In remarks to the nine couples before the ceremony, Bishop O'Connell said that "many more couples" had responded to the archdiocese's invitation to convalidate their marriages, but had chosen to do it in their parishes.

He said that these recent ceremonies are "the invitation that gets people to think" about convalidating their marriages.