Bishop James P. Powers stands with a photo of Lester and Joyce Hines, who are celebrating 74 years of marriage in 2020. This year’s Wedding Anniversary Mass was celebrated with the public via livestream, and couples wishing to participate sent their names, wedding dates and photos. (Screen shot, Catholic Herald staff)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Living out the commitments of marriage and family life, “two of the oldest and most important institutions,” is a witness to the whole world.

“You became a sacramental sign for all the world to see,” Bishop James P. Powers told Diocese of Superior couples celebrating their milestone wedding anniversaries during the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass, “a sacramental sign of our Lord’s love, a sacramental sign of the church, a sacrament ever present, ever new, permanent, life-giving.”

Couples participated virtually in this year’s Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Powers at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 18, at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.

Attended in person only by the rector of the cathedral, Fr. Andrew Ricci, two musicians and the organizer, diocesan Chancellor Deb Lieberg, the event was livestreamed on the cathedral’s Facebook page.

A record number of couples requested to join the 2020 celebration. About 100 names were read, and 105 congratulatory certificates were sent out, according to Lieberg – the most Bishop Powers has seen during his tenure as bishop.

Participating couples’ anniversaries ranged from 10 years to 74 years, with 24 couples celebrating golden anniversaries and 15 celebrating 60 years of marriage.

The accompanying luncheon – traditionally an opportunity for couples to meet and mingle with others sharing similar anniversary dates or years – was cancelled for 2020.

‘We celebrate a covenant’

In his opening remarks, the bishop acknowledged the pleasure and privilege of celebrating the Wedding Anniversary Mass, “how important that institution of marriage and family is … how important it is that we uphold it in any way that we possibly can, and how important it is that we celebrate it.”

In the difficulties, interruptions and suffering wrought by COVID-19, the bishop sees a broader lesson.

“Our God never ever promised us that everything was always going to go the way we wanted it to, and this is just another sign of that, or example of that,” he said.

There’s not a couple out there for whom everything has gone exactly as they hoped, expected or dreamed it would on the day they took their vows, he added. “But, with our God’s love and our God’s grace, we are able to continue. We are able to forge forward in our lives.”

One benefit of COVID-19 is the pandemic has forced the diocese to expand its use of technology, he observed, allowing them to reach out to more people.

He recognized that some of the 100 couples who joined virtually would not have been able to come to Superior; going forward, the event will be live-streamed, “so people that aren’t able to make that travel can be with us, because how important a part each and every person plays, not just in our diocese, not just in your parishes at home, but as that body of Christ, one family of our God.”

“As we celebrate your wedding anniversary today, we celebrate so much more than that marriage license … so much more than just that human contract,” he said. “Today we celebrate a covenant. That eternal promise that the two of you made not only to each other but made to our God as well, and that eternal promise that our God made to each of you.

“We celebrate your promise to be faithful to each other, to be faithful to the truths of the Catholic Church, and to the desires of our God in your lives,” he added. “And we celebrate God’s promise to bless your union, to give it an overabundance of that very best of wine, a divine strength in hard times and good times, that promise to be forever faithful to you.”

In the day’s Gospel, the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus was invited to the wedding. That’s important because Jesus didn’t force himself on people then, and he doesn’t force himself on us today, the bishop explained. “We need to invite him into our lives.”

By performing his first miracle at a wedding, Jesus also places great significance on the institution of marriage, Bishop Powers said. When he turns water into wine, he doesn’t just make a little more – he makes more than 100 gallons of wine and “uses the occasion of a wedding to announce the arrival of the new messianic age.

“You may not have had Jesus at your wedding reception changing water into wine for you, but again, as with the couple in the Gospel, you invited him to your wedding and he, our God, was present there on your wedding day,” he added.

“As you held each other’s hand, our Lord wrapped his hands around yours as you spoke your wedding vows. God promised grace and strength you needed, to be true to all you vowed that day, and you became a sacramental sign for all the world to see.”

Jesus never promised it was going to be all “sunshine and roses,” Bishop Powers concluded. Through it all, God’s grace and strength helped you through hard times, and made the good times more joy-filled.

In normal circumstances, couples are invited to attend the Mass, renew their vows together, and process up the aisle together to receive a certificate from the bishop. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, couples sent in photos and renewed their vows at home, and the bishop held their photos while names were read. Certificates were signed and mailed to participating couples.

The recording is available to view on the Cathedral of Christ the King’s website: and on the Diocese of Superior’s website: