By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
When Sylvester Fritz married his wife Janet, he never imagined being fortunate enough to make it to 50 years. Now that they have reached the milestone, he reflects on his decision to wed Janet as “the best decision I ever made.
“I’m probably the happiest guy in Iowa!” said the parishioner of Ss. Joseph and Cabrini in Richland.
The Fritzes and about 25 couples from throughout the diocese renewed their marriage vows during a 50th Anniversary Mass at St. Mathias Church in Muscatine Oct. 12. Bishop Martin Amos presided, honoring the couples for their dedication to God and each other.
Marianne Agnoli, diocesan adult and family formation coordinator, said the annual event gives the Davenport Diocese the opportunity to honor couples who have lived their marriage vows, especially in an era in which a lifelong marriage is less common than in the past. “These people serve as such wonderful models,” she said, adding that the longevity of their marriages “enriches the whole Church.”
In his homily, Bishop Amos confessed that celebrating marriage vow renewals is one of his favorite things to do as a priest. “Looking into the eyes of couples married 50 years, I know you know those words have real meaning,” he said.
He also explained that the renewal of vows should not be saved for special Masses or milestones; instead, they must be renewed daily. “It’s much more than a promise made in one sacramental moment; it is an ongoing process of discovering good and learning what God is like from the experience of married life,” he said.
During the vow renewals, Bishop Amos asked couples to face each other and hold hands. Together, the couples thanked God for standing by them in good and bad times, and asked him to help them remain faithful in their love for each other. The couples sealed their renewed vows with a kiss.
Dick Kissack of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton said after renewing his vows, “The people here are lucky to have all these years together.” His wife Connie said the service was “beautiful.”
Some of the couples were joined by children and grandchildren. Anabelia Calderon-Flores and her two siblings were present to help their parents, Sabina and Elias Calderon, celebrate their vow renewal. “It shows commitment, dedication, and patience. It shows the respect of what marriage should be,” she said of her parents’ long marriage.
At the after-Mass reception in St. Mathias’ Gannon Hall, couples were served cake and champagne. Ss. Mary and Mathias parishioners had adorned the tables with gold-colored 50th anniversary decorations. Each couple received a prayer book complete with a blessing from Bishop Amos.
Couples shared their tips for a lifelong marriage with The Catholic Messenger. “It takes a lot of faith and give and take,” said Mary Ann Waldschmidt, a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Hills with husband Ron.
Added fellow St. Joseph parishioner Joan Gringer, who renewed vows with husband Ron, “You have to have faith to do this!”