It is an inevitable question every couple is asked - "How did you meet?" After all, that meeting is something that changed two lives forever.
At the annual diocesan Silver and Gold wedding anniversary celebration, 135 couples from parishes around the diocese celebrated those first meetings that changed their lives honoring their 25th and 50th anniversaries Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of St. John here. Among the happy husbands and wives were also couples celebrating 55 and 60 years of marriage.
Bishop Emeritus Frank Rodimer celebrated the Mass, which was concelebrated by several priests from around the diocese and coordinated by the diocesan office of family life.
To the couples, the bishop said, "What a beautiful sight this is to see so many of you married couples celebrating your wedding anniversaries of 50 years or 25 years and to be together on the Lord's day, the day on which we praise the Lord, thank God for the gift of the Lord's life and resurrection. We're glad to be together with my brother priests, deacons and seminarians to thank God for you and for your vocation and your fidelity to your call to be witnesses to Christ by living a faithful married life."
He said in his homily, "About 24 years ago, I dedicated my weekly column in The Beacon to a beautiful girl named Lauren. She was my grandniece and she was born with cancer. The tumor had to be removed. She's lived a great life. On the first day of this month, Lauren Rodimer married and her husband said that he became a Catholic because of her example. I mention them because they seem so happy. They seem to be so set on one another - so much in love that it made me think of all of you who have celebrated or are celebrating anniversaries this year."
The bishop compared the vocation of marriage similar to the vocation of the priesthood. "It seems to me the love that's there is inspired by God. The vocation to marriage is a calling. The vocation to the priesthood is a calling. This is what God wants us to do," said Bishop Rodimer. "It seems at times what may have been a chance meeting, may not have been chance at all but a plan of God from the very beginning."
Getting inspiration from a poem, the bishop said, "It's never perfect but we have to do the best we can and leave the rest to heaven. We celebrate today, the miracle of your fidelity to marriage. Your patience and perseverance through the years has led us here together today and we thank God for your witness of the love of Christ."
Like on their wedding days, the 135 couples exchanged vows holding each other's hands before Bishop Rodimer renewing their love, fidelity and commitment to each other in Holy Matrimony. The bishop presented each couple with a certificate honoring their significant anniversaries this year.
Following the Mass, the couples joined in fellowship at the Bishop Rodimer Center next to the cathedral.
For two couples, the Silver and Gold Mass was a family affair. Jane and John Dixon celebrated 25 years of marriage while Jane's parents, Florence and Salvatore Vanacore, celebrated 50 years of marriage. Both couples are parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Parish in East Hanover.
The Dixon couple, who are parents to two teen-agers, Christina and Tyler, met in high school while both were members of the marching band. They celebrated their silver anniversary on August 24 and Jane Dixon said, "It was interested because 25 years ago, we really didn't think about how my parents' 25th was that year. Now, it's a nice kind of coincidence to celebrate these two happy occasions."
John Dixon said, "It's an overwhelming feeling to be here. We didn't expect this many couples to be celebrating so it's an exciting thing to see."
When the couple was asked about the secret to a long and happy marriage, they said, "communication, flexibility and a lot of forgiveness."
With her parents as examples, Florence and Salvatore Vanacore were married 50 years ago on June 11 at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson. Salvatore Vanacore joked, "We've only gotten a few years older. Time has flown. We are happy to be alive and well."
Florence Vanacore shared her favorite thing about her husband and she said, "He likes to cook for me and I enjoy everything he makes."
Another couple celebrating 50 years was Pat and Virginia McNulty of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Highland Lakes. They were married on June 18, 1960 at St. Sebastian Church in Queens, New York.
Both born and raised in Queens, they went to the same elementary school since the first grade but did not get to know each other until high school when Pat randomly asked to borrow money from Virginia while both were at Rockaway Beach in Queens.
"We always tease each other that he has been paying me back ever since," said Virginia McNulty.
The couple, who have two daughters and two grandsons, enjoyed the Mass and said, "We've been blessed to have had many years of a beautiful marriage and the secret really has been patience and making sure you look out for each other with 100 percent."
For Dorothy and George Tyrrel, the Mass celebrated by Bishop Rodimer was a flashback to their own wedding celebrated on November 16, 1985 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Wayne.
Dorothy Tyrrel said, "On the day of my wedding, I was preparing some last minute details at the church that morning wearing regular clothes. During that time, Bishop Rodimer just finished celebrating Confirmation and someone introduced me as the bride to be. Bishop Rodimer gave me his blessing that day so it's great to be here celebrating. He looks exactly the same."
George Tyrrel added, "This is very special and none of us has aged a day. I can't believe it has been 25 years."
For John and Bridget Polanin, parishioners of St. Patrick Parish in Chatham, the couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary July 5.
The couple, who have four children, met at The Catholic University of America in Washington when she was in graduate school and he was in law school.
"She worked as a librarian and I got good grades that semester because I spent more time in the library," said John Polanin, who is a member of the diocesan choir. "It's interesting because the bishop spoke how it's not chance but a reason why two people end up together. I remember Catholic University wasn't my first choice law school but I would have never met my wife if I didn't go there."
When Bridget Polanin was asked what she loved about her husband. She said, "He is very smart and he's full of faith. Our secret to our marriage has really been good communication and never ignoring each other."