By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — When asked what about the key to staying together for 50 years of marriage, Jim Puck laughed. The St. Joseph-DeWitt parishioner said Bishop Thomas Zinkula summed it up best: “by the bite marks on your tongue.”
Jim and his wife Joan were one of 67 couples married 50 years or more who celebrated their marriages at a diocesan-wide Mass Oct. 15 at St. Paul the Apostle Church. Bishop Zinkula presided. Concelebrants were Fathers Tony Herold and Bill Kneemiller from St. Paul the Apostle, Fathers Jim Vrba and Ross Epping from St. John Vianney Parish-Bettendorf and Father Thom Hennen, director of vocations.
“Nearly 70 couples from 27 parishes are here today. That is very cool,” Bishop Zinkula said.
Prayer — whether couple prayer or family prayer — is important, the bishop continued. When he was a young parish priest, the bishop conducted marriage preparation in his parishes. “I wanted them to pray together. Say something you are grateful for that day. Then say something that was difficult or a challenge. Share that with your fiancé.” Thank God for something good and ask him for help with challenges. “Recognize that God is there.”
The bishop identified many forms of prayer — from traditional prayers to the rosary to reading Scripture passages to intercessions to adoration. “My parents had a prayer card and would pray it every night.”
He said his dad would be in the chair with his eyes closed for a long time. He and his siblings realized he had fallen asleep. When his dad woke up he would say he needed to start all over again with his prayers. “We need to pray together and pray for each other. That is a huge thing,” Bishop Zinkula said.
He shared a passage from Pope Francis’ 2014 talk to engaged couples. “On this journey prayer is important, it is necessary, always: he for her, she for him and both together. Ask Jesus to multiply your love,” the pope said. “What sustains us moves us forward,” Bishop Zinkula added.
Following the homily, the couples stood up and took each other’s hands and renewed their commitment to each other. Bishop Zinkula blessed the couples. After Mass, he handed each couple “A Psalter for Couples” book of prayer. A reception followed in Denning Hall.
Marianne Agnoli, marriage and family life coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport, said this year’s anniversary Mass witnessed the best spread of parishes. Several couples married more than 50 years attended the Mass because it was closer to where they lived. Only one anniversary couple was unable to attend due to illness. But someone close to them attended and picked up a prayer book for the couple, Agnoli said. Couples married 50 years or more are role models for those just getting ready to enter marriage, Agnoli observed. That’s why she likes to have them talk at marriage prep classes.
Jim and Joan Puck were married Aug. 19, 1967, at St. Patrick Church in Villa Nova, now closed. The couple said they were honored to receive the invitation and met up with several couples who had moved on from the Villa Nova-DeWitt area.
John and Julia Munoz of Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison attended the Mass with six other family members. The couple was married Oct. 9, 1967, at Sacred Heart Church in Fort Madison.
The timing of the Mass was perfect. They celebrated their anniversary earlier this month and have children and grandchildren at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. “Our son lives here and the family had a party for us,” Julia said.
John said one key to 50 years of marriage is the ability to understand each other through good times and bad times. “We don’t think about the number of years,” Julia said. “Family, kids, grandkids are a blessing.”
The couple laughed about the probability of reaching another 50 years of marriage. They are enjoying the 50 years they have had together. “We take things one day at a time,” Julia said. “We count our blessings.”