‘A true vocation:’ Couples celebrate 50 years

Spouses share moments after renewing their vows at St. Mary Church in Pella Oct. 9. They were participating in a Mass for Catholics

celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries.

By Celine Klosterman

Married life may not always be easy, but it can be fun, Frank Belloma said.

“Everyone has their ups and downs, but if you have a problem, work it out and then laugh about it,” the member of St. Mary Parish in Centerville said.

He and his wife Norma, who he describes as his best friend, wed at St. Mary’s on Sept. 16, 1961, and have since welcomed three children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The Bellomas were among 42 couples who accepted invitations to an Oct. 9 Mass at St. Mary Church in Pella that recognized spouses who’ve been married for 50 years. The Diocese of Davenport offers the Mass annually.


“Your marriage is a true vocation — a true calling,” Bishop Martin Amos, the Mass’ celebrant, told couples in his homily.

One of his favorite things to do as a priest and now a bishop is renew marriage vows, he said. “Sometimes someone — usually the husband — will say, ‘I did it once; I don’t know why I have to do it again.’  But in reality, you have to renew not yearly, or every five years or 50 years; you must renew your vows daily. You may not do it formally — you may not say, ‘For better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health.’ But better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health will be part of every day, and your acceptance is a renewal of those vows.”

Such acceptance likely comes easier on some days than others, Bishop Amos acknowledged. Sometimes, loving a spouse might have felt more like trying to love an enemy.

But he spoke of agape, a kind of love which reflects God’s unconditional love. “Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience,” the bishop said, citing Colossians 3:12. “Because we don’t always do those things, Paul reminds us to also put on forgiveness, which I believe, along with laughter, gets us through many things.”

“You know better than any of us what love means: The willingness to pledge your hearts and your lives to each other, to redefine the word ‘love’ a thousand times, each time grasping a bit more of the mystery which makes you one.”

The Church thanks God for couples’ witness to married love and for their lifelong commitment, Bishop Amos said. “And I hope you as the domestic church thank God for all his blessings and graces.”

Couples then renewed their vows.

Celebrating 50 years of marriage is a noteworthy accomplishment in today’s world, Joan Schafbuch said. She married Gary in 1961 at St. Bridget Church in Victor, the parish the couple still belongs to.

That accomplishment requires patience and communication, she said. “People need to look at each other and say what they’re feeling instead of keeping it bottled up inside them – whether those feelings are good or bad.”

Doing so helps foster a long-lasting marriage whose biggest rewards are family, said the mother of five, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of one.

For Joan Cunningham, a member of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell, family is also one of marriage’s best benefits. She and her husband, Jim, a retired pharmacist, considered themselves a team as she stayed home to rear three children and later began working as a teacher.

“We had a really good foundation in our parents, who raised us with good Catholic morals,” said Cunningham, who was married at St. Edward Parish in Waterloo on July 29, 1961. Her and Jim’s children are now passing those values on to their children, she said. “We have a strong faith.”

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