'Capture again ... that
Under a deep blue Kansas sky, dozens of couples from every corner of the diocese descended on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City Oct. 18 to renew their wedding vows and celebrate their anniversaries.
Celebrating the Mass was Father Ted Skalsky, who presented his homily in Spanish, and Father Robert Schremmer, who spoke in English.
“Two priests, a bishop doesn’t make,” Father Schremmer said, referring to Bishop Ronald Gilmore’s absence from the Anniversary Mass. “But here we are, Ted and I, to celebrate with you. I know that Bishop Gilmore would very much like to be here with you. Know that yesterday he celebrated Mass with your intentions, and today he celebrates Mass with the intentions of all the diocese. He is grateful to all those who have offered him support and encouragement in all manner of ways….”
To couples young and old – from those five years married to the longest married couple in attendance at 68 years – Father Schremmer told the story of Emil and Hilda. After a long 50th anniversary celebration, with Mass, a reception, dinner and dance, Father Schremmer said that Emil found his wife resting on the sofa:
“And she says, ‘Emil, remember when we were young? You used to sit by me here on the sofa. Would you mind? Come over here, sit right next to me on the sofa.’ Emil does. A moment later she said, ‘Emil, remember when we were young and we would sit together on the sofa and we would cuddle and we’d snuggle? Would you do that, please, for me?’ And so he snuggled up against her.
“A little while later Hilda says, ‘Emil, remember when we were young and we sat on the sofa and we snuggled and we cuddled, and you even nibbled on my ear? Would you nibble on my ear?’
“Off he went and out of the room he goes!” Father Schremmer said. “She said, ‘I pushed him too far! I asked for too much!’ Then in he comes. ‘Where were you, Emil?’ she asks.
“‘I had to go get my teeth.’
“Come on!” Father Schremmer told those gathered as they erupted into laughter. “Snuggle and cuddle here, whisper in one another’s ear! But save the nibbling until you get home.
“You know, there’s something about celebrating anniversaries ... that takes us back to the beginning, to the joy of it, the thrill of it, the recklessness of it. Go there, please, back to the beginning, to the joy of it, the recklessness of it, the thrill of it. And remember, recall, capture again ... that feeling, that experience that moved you, that prodded you, that tugged at you, that pulled at you, that somehow was a tremendous movement of grace that God worked in your lives and in ours, too.
“… One thing Ted and I do know, is [to have the] trust to live out our priesthood, we need witnesses such as you...” in love and in fidelity and in commitment. “We need to see that. Your kids need to see that. Your grandkids, especially -- those who have them -- need to see that. Couples out there need to see that.
“Pope John Paul II said married couples can’t do this on their own, because you’re not just in some kind of partnership; you’re in a sacramental marriage,” Father Schremmer added. “You’re not just asked to do the natural thing, you’re attempting to do the supernatural thing.
“So, here you are, reclaiming that reckless love, that ambitious love, that exciting love, and as you go back to that moment and you see all those joys… you will also pass over some hard times and some difficult times.
“…It’s not just in those moments of great love that our God is. He is also, sometimes even more, in those moments of sacrifice, pain and struggles,” Father Schremmer said. “Gather all that up, would you? In just a moment [Cody and Mercedes Helms] will bring the bread and wine up this ramp onto that altar. Could you throw all that in there, so that when it comes back down to you, on this, a day of celebrating your anniversary – this important anniversary, important to you but also important to the likes of Ted and me and others – [you will know] it’s not just about your own lives, or your own struggles, but about that divine love and that divine struggle?
“And please allow the Lord to do for you whatever the Lord wishes to. Folks like Ted and I and others need you -- to see you in love and in fidelity and commitment.”
After Father Skalsky shared a homily in Spanish, and as children pointed cameras at their parents, young couples, some holding a baby between them, and older couples, some unable to stand -- grasped each others hands and renewed their wedding vows: “Today I renew my commitment to you. I promise to love you and remain faithful to you all the days of my life.”
During the roast beef dinner reception that followed in the social hall, Marcie Hoffman was asked her secret to a long and happy marriage. She responded, “Good companionship.” At 68 years wed, she and her husband, Bruno, were the longest married couple at the Mass. They have two daughters, seven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. Each couple received a certificate from the Diocese of Dodge City.