50th+ anniversary Mass | Long-married couples are a ‘beacon of hope’

Barb Arland-Fye
John Barker and his wife Mary of St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa, along with 24 other couples, renew their marriage vows during a diocesan 50th+ Wedding Anniversary Mass Oct. 23 at St. Mary Parish in Grinnell.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

GRINNELL — Twenty-five couples held hands, locked eyes and promised to remain faithful in their love for each other, to be true witnesses to the covenant that God has made with humankind. These couples married 50 years or longer celebrated their commitment to the sacrament of marriage during the Diocese of Davenport’s 50th+ Wedding Anniversary Mass on Oct. 23 at St. Mary Catholic Church.

“God gets the ball rolling. It all begins with him. It is all gift. God gives us life, he gives us each other and he gives us love,” Bishop Thomas Zinkula said in his homily. “Jesus experienced God’s love and passed it on to us and he tells us, ‘Love one another as I love you.’ In obedience of Jesus’s command, you Christian spouses pass on your personal experience of Jesus’ love to one another.”

Strong marriages depend on “a strong relationship with God, who has to be a spouse’s and a couple’s first priority, their first love,” the bishop said. “Marriage needs to be centered on God’s love.”
Gratitude is one appropriate response to God’s love. Another response is generosity — “giving away one’s self and the gifts we have received from God to others.” The bishop referenced the Scripture readings for the Mass from Isaiah, Philippians and John’s Gospel, each of which reflected on reciprocating God’s gift of love.


Bishop Zinkula also shared a poignant message from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Christus Vivit” (“Christ is Alive”): “There is a beauty in the wife, slightly disheveled and no longer young, who continues to care for her husband despite her own failing health. Long after the springtime of their courtship has passed, there is beauty in the fidelity of those couples who still love one another in the autumn of life, those elderly people who still hold hands as they walk.”

“Your witness to the diocese is huge,” Marianne Agnoli, the diocese’s Marriage and Family Life coordinator, told the long-married couples as Mass concluded. Among her responsibilities, she told them, is preparing couples to marry in the Catholic Church. “I challenge them to be here in 50 years. You are a beacon of hope.”

The couples appreciate the source of that hope. Doris and Mike Hotchkin were married 62 years ago at St. Mary Parish in Grinnell, where they remain members. The secret to their long marriage? “She puts up with me,” Mike says, looking at Doris with a twinkle in his eye. “The obvious answer is prayer and then patience, fairness, forgiveness and laughter,” Doris says. “I think about all the crazy things that happen in our lives. Problems come up every day and that happens when you are raising kids and it happens when you get older. If you don’t laugh about it you’ll just sit down and cry and that doesn’t do anyone any good.” Attending Mass twice a week and on Saturday night also uplifts them, Doris said.

Gary and Janice Best of Church of All Saints Parish in Keokuk, married 50 years ago on Oct. 21, attribute their long marriage to their commitment to the Catholic faith. From the time they dated, “it was important to me and it was important to him,” Janice said, “and going to Mass every Sunday, even on vacation,” added Gary. Their daughter, Regina Haage, attended. “I didn’t want to miss this day,” Regina said as she snapped photos of her parents, including one with Bishop Zinkula.

Mike and Trudy Welter of St. Mary Parish in Sigourney have been married 51 years. Mike, borrowing a quip from Bishop Zinkula at the start of Mass, said the success of a long marriage is “biting your tongue a lot!” Trudy added, “We’ve prayed a lot!”

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula hands a prayer book to Gary and Janice Best of Church of All Saints Parish in Keokuk following the 50th+ Wedding Anniversary Mass Oct. 23 at St. Mary Parish in Grinnell.

Mike and Terri O’Hara of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, who also have been married 51 years, said the connection between family and faith is essential. That, “and a lot of patience,” Mike said. “It’s a work in progress,” Terri added.

Grant and Rita Wolf of St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Nov. 11, attribute their long marriage to “communication and faith,” Rita said, and to “respect for each other,” Grant said. “Love is patient, love is kind,” said Ted Haas of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, explaining the key to his and wife Dianne’s 50-year marriage.

“Team work” guides Deacon Chuck and Donna Metzger of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. They celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary the day before the Mass in Grinnell. “Each of us puts out 100% and sometimes you have to put out 110%,” Deacon Chuck said. Prayer and the work of marriage sustains them. “God gave us the ability to work through these things and he also gave us the strength.”

“When he was in Vietnam, it really was a struggle,” said Donna, a young mother then. She would turn on the TV and see news about the war, not knowing whether her husband was alive or dead. “God was really helping me through,” added Donna, a convert studying to become a Catholic at that time.

Kathy and Duane Papke of St .Thomas More Parish in Coralville have been married 50 years. They attribute their long marriage to serving as coordinators in the Sponsor Couple ministry for marriage preparation and to their parents’ example of married life. In Sponsor Couple ministry, “We got to talk about things we hadn’t thought to talk about,” Kathy said. “When we got married,” she added, “We took it as long term,” Duane said.

Ron and Mary Klein, who belong to Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf, have been married 50 years. “My dad said, ‘Never marry a quitter,’” Ron, a convert said. The couple laugh remembering a time when she told him she was so mad at him that she was leaving. “He said, ‘That’s OK, I’ll pack up and go with you.’

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