Annual anniversary celebration recognizes marriages old and new Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
50th wedding anniversary celebration
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison talks with Marion and Harold Fleege from Hazel Green (above), who will be married for 70 years in December, at the annual Diocese of Madison Celebration of Wedding Anniversaries at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains August 14. To view or purchase photos, go to (Catholic Herald photos/Kevin Wondrash)

CROSS PLAINS -- “What a joy it is to be here with such fine witnesses of fidelity,” said Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison.

“What a pleasure and joy, in the midst of a very troubled world, there stand you, and your marital fidelity,” the bishop added during the start of Mass on August 14 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cross Plains -- the site of the Diocese of Madison’s annual Celebration of Wedding Anniversaries.

“This is a holy place because it’s God’s house, but your presence, for which we’re so grateful, adds to the intensity of that holiness,” Bishop Morlino said.

The annual celebration brings together couples in the diocese married more than 50 years.

For the second year in a row, couples in the diocese married less than three years were also invited to share in celebrating the sacrament.

Celebrating long-lasting marriages

Shirley and Ralph Wienkes from Fennimore will be married for 55 years in December.

This year, they made their second trip to the celebration, after coming a few years prior when they celebrated their 50th anniversary.

Ralph said a blessing of their marriage was “having good times together . . . it’s been a long time.”

Shirley said it would be an honor to be “recognized” with all of the other long-married couples.

Marion and Harold Fleege from Hazel Green will be married 70 years in December.

This year was their first trip to the marriage celebration.

They commented that “times are different today” than when they were married in 1946.

They said they would encourage all the young couples at the celebration to raise their kids right -- reflecting on their family of five daughters.

Celebrating new marriages

Denise and Alex Dowling from Madison, who attended the celebration, have been married almost two years and they have a nine-month-old son Bennett -- who makes their marriage “wonderful”.

“Marital arguments seem more petty when you have [a baby],” Denise said.

Becca and Ben Rouleau from Madison have been married for almost a year and also attended the celebration as a newlywed couple.

Looking at all the elderly married couples, Ben said, “There’s so much wisdom and experience there . . . probably over a thousand years of experience here.”

“It’s a testament to that sacred bond,” he added. “It’s really cool.”

Celebrating the Eucharist

Bishop Morlino celebrated Mass, along with Fr. Tom Kelley, pastor of St. Francis Xavier.

During his homily, the bishop welcomed everyone, especially the older couples, with a humorous reference to “our yearly continuation of World Youth Day.”

“Your fidelity, in some cases for 70-plus years, or 60-plus years, 50-plus years, and many other great accomplishments, are proof that you’re young at heart. How else could you take it?” the bishop added.

Bishop Morlino encouraged the older couples to embrace and be proud of their ages.

“You have a lot to offer,” he said. “Don’t ever, for a second, give into the temptation to think, no matter what our culture and our society tells you, don’t even give into the temptation to think for a minute that you are a burden on anybody.”

“You’re an unrepeatable gift of God,” Bishop Morlino added. “Your youthful fidelity and your wisdom are precious gifts to the whole world. That’s who you are.”

He also credited their longevity to forgiveness.

“Your marriages have been schools and mountains and waterfalls of forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard. To forgive is a very humbling thing . . . It’s a crushing, consuming thing . . . It’s the Cross.”

Celebrating marriage and family

All married couples present received a certificate of congratulations from the Diocese of Madison recognizing their marriages.

Couples also received a commemorative booklet, complete with pictures, stories, and words of wisdom from the older couples at the celebration.

Following Mass, a reception was held in the parish hall where couples, young and old, had a chance to meet and talk with each other.

The celebration was put on by the Diocese of Madison Office of Marriage and Family.

The office develops and coordinates programs and services that directly enrich, support, and minister to families in all stages of development and in all their diverse forms.

For more information on the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family, including a schedule of upcoming events, go to Family.aspx

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