December 2, 2022

Archbishop celebrates milestone anniversaries at Tell City Deanery Mass

Richard and Nellie Peter, left, Ruth Ann and Robert Brumfield and Nancy and Bill Ludwig smile with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson during a reception following a Mass honoring milestone wedding anniversaries for couples of the Tell City Deanery at St. Paul Parish in Tell City on Oct. 29. (Submitted photo by Jane Hubert)

Richard and Nellie Peter, left, Ruth Ann and Robert Brumfield and Nancy and Bill Ludwig smile with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson during a reception following a Mass honoring milestone wedding anniversaries for couples of the Tell City Deanery at St. Paul Parish in Tell City on Oct. 29. (Submitted photo by Jane Hubert)

By Leslie Lynch

TELL CITY—When Marlene Kunkler read an article in The Criterion about the archdiocese’s annual Wedding Anniversary Mass in Indianapolis, the member of St. Mark Parish in Perry County thought about the couples in her parish—and the three-hour drive to the state capital.

“Making the journey to Indianapolis would be difficult or impossible for many from here,” she recalled thinking.

A seed was planted. What started as an idea for a parish wedding anniversary Mass soon included four parishes, then was extended to the entire Tell City Deanery.

On Oct. 29, the plans came to fruition.

In a first-of-its-kind event outside Indianapolis, St. Paul Parish in Tell City hosted a deanery-wide Wedding Anniversary Mass. More than 80 couples and their families worshipped at the Mass, which was celebrated by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, then enjoyed a dinner reception after the Mass.

In an interview with The Criterion, Trish Edwards, a member of the celebration’s planning committee, captured the spirit of the evening.

“We are so excited about doing this for the families!” she said, her face glowing with joy.

Committee chair Becky Hubert agreed.

“We’re so honored to have the archbishop here with us, grateful that he was open to the idea of coming,” she remarked at the reception.

During the Mass, the archbishop reflected in his homily about the importance of marriage and families.

‘Keeping Jesus Christ at the center’

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson recalled the words of Pope Francis on June 22 as he addressed the World Meeting of Families.

He noted the Holy Father said that “whenever a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift; that gift is marriage, which contains the power of God’s own love: strong, enduring, faithful, ready to start over after every failure or moment of weakness. In marriage, Christ gives himself to you, so you can have the strength to give yourselves to each other.”

He paused and glanced at the pews filled with anniversary honorees before saying, “But I’m preaching to the choir here!” A ripple of chuckles followed his remark.

“By the grace of the sacrament [of marriage], God makes [family life] a wonderful journey, to be undertaken with him and never alone,” he continued.

The archbishop went on to speak of the foundational role of marriage and family. As couples welcome each other, then welcome children, relatives, friends and even strangers, they share God’s grace in transforming the world, he said.

Archbishop Thompson noted that the day’s Gospel reading about Zacchaeus “really highlights the transforming power of divine grace made available in welcome and acceptance. Zacchaeus encounters Jesus and is immediately transformed.

“Jesus Christ and [that] transforming divine grace is available to each person and relationship, especially within the vocation of marriage and family.”

The archbishop shared an anecdote of a couple dating when cars had bench seats.

“Remember that?” he asked. “When you’d sit so close to each other that from behind, it looked like one body with two heads?

“And then with time, she starts sitting a little farther away, until she’s all the way over by the passenger door. Then one day, she bursts out, ‘What happened to us? We used to be so close! We’ve grown so far apart!’ He looks over and says, ‘Don’t blame me, I never moved.’ ”

After the laughter died down, Archbishop Thompson explained the story wasn’t just about married couples but each person’s relationship with God.

“When we feel lonely or distant from God, we have to remember who moved,” he said. “Don’t blame God.”

He continued, “You don’t get to 50-plus years of marriage without keeping God in the driver’s seat. The Lord is with us each and every day of the journey. Amid the various crises of life, the ups and downs, opportunities and challenges, joys and sorrows, we draw inspiration from the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ on the cross to persevere in faith, hope and love.

“It’s not the absence of struggle that makes a marriage last, but keeping Jesus Christ at the center of our lives and relationships.”

The archbishop then led the couples in prayer, asked them to silently renew their vows, and conferred God’s blessing on them as generations of descendants looked on.

‘Lots of give and take’

The couples and their families gathered for a dinner celebration after the Mass.

Among the couples was a group of three sisters—Nellie, Ruth Ann and Nancy—and their husbands.

Nellie Peter met her husband Richard on a 4-H trip to Purdue University as teenagers, though they only lived 6 miles apart growing up. The couple, members of St. Mark, raised eight children and have five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

With 61 years of marriage witness, Nellie advised married couples to “remember the commitment you made when you got married.”

Her sister Ruth Ann Brumfield agreed, adding, “You have to hear both sides, not just one side. Lots of give and take.”

She and her husband Bob—high school sweethearts—have been married 59 years, have a daughter and two grandchildren and are members of St. Paul.

Nancy and Bill Ludwig, also St. Paul parishioners, met on a blind date. They have three children and five grandchildren.

“We went to a movie, then dragged Main Street like people did back then—you know, seeing who’s with who,” she recalled.

After 58 years of marriage, Nancy advised couples to “have patience and understanding.”

In remarks after dinner, Hubert said the gathering “is such a testament of the devotion to one another. So much wisdom, faith, and love present in this room. I congratulate each and every one of you for this accomplishment.”

Father Anthony Hollowell, pastor of St. Paul and St. Mark parishes and dean of the Tell City Deanery, noted with awe that the couples in attendance represented more than 5,200 combined years of marriage.

Two couples merited special mention: Hubert and Eulalae Hagedorn of St. Paul, married 75 years, and their fellow parishioners Ovalee and Dorothy LaGrange, celebrating 74 years of marriage.

“The evening was a blessing on so many levels for me,” said Becky Hubert, a daughter of the Hagedorns. “Not only were we blessed with Archbishop Thompson’s presence, but the sheer number of [couples] and families in the church was a testament to their faith-centered family values.”

(Leslie Lynch is a member of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville.)

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