SAN DIEGO — Perhaps as many as 1,000 people attended the Diocese of San Diego’s special Marriage Anniversary Mass last year. Some women even wore their wedding dresses.
Blown away by the enthusiastic response, it was “kind of a no-brainer to do it again this year,” said John Prust, director of the diocesan Office for Family Life and Spirituality.
The second annual Marriage Anniversary Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 12, at The Immaculata Church, located on the campus of the University of San Diego. Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano will be the celebrant.
The Mass will take place during National Marriage Week, observed from Feb. 7 through Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
“Everything (at the Marriage Anniversary Mass) is based on the theme of marriage – the readings, the homily, all the intentions, the music,” said Prust, who noted that married couples who are parishioners of The Immaculata or representatives of local marriage ministries will fulfill the various liturgical roles at the Mass.
After Bishop Bejarano’s homily, all participating couples will have the opportunity to renew their wedding vows in English, Spanish or Vietnamese.
Deacon Manuel Rivas, who serves at Good Shepherd Parish and assisted at the altar for last year’s Mass, recalled what that moment was like. He likened the sound of the couples’ renewing their vows to “a heavenly choir of love.”
Those couples who are celebrating major anniversaries will be publicly recognized.
In a departure from last year, this year’s celebration will continue after Mass with a reception and a marriage ministry fair featuring representatives of such programs as Engaged Encounter, Marriage Encounter and Witness to Love.
Prust said the ministry fair will “visually represent the reality that marriage formation is ongoing” and that “there are so many ministries out there to help couples.”
As Prust sees it, the purpose of the Marriage Anniversary Mass is simply “to celebrate the gift of marriage,” adding that we “too often take it for granted.”
Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan, last year’s celebrant, said that marriage “needs to be honored, and cherished, and supported” because the family home is “where Church really happens.”
Married for 52 years, Good Shepherd parishioners Don and Mary Wagner were one of three couples who led the Responsorial Psalm at last year’s Mass.
Mary said that the presence of the bishop and many concelebrating priests “reinforced how important our marriage and family is to the Church and society.”
Reflecting on the event’s significance, her husband added, “It is important for Catholic couples to get together and communicate about our Catholic religion, family life issues and marital relationships. We are not alone in the world with our faith and family.”
“Events like this (Marriage Anniversary Mass) provide encouragement and support for our couples to continue to witness to the love of God in their lives and families,” said Deacon Rivas. The couples’ participation serves as “a witness to society that marriage does work, that marriage is important and that, while difficult, a marriage with God in their midst is a successful and joyful union.”