by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Planning one wedding consumes months of time and energy, so imagine planning a party for more than 100 couples celebrating 50 years of marriage each.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas hosts just such a celebration, and the golden wedding anniversary Mass and celebration gets bigger every year.
In fact, this year’s event was the biggest yet, drawing 115 couples — and their guests — attending the Mass and reception on June 14 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.
“There is a lot of preparation,” acknowledged Mary Anne Kierl, whose office is filled with gifts to wrap, long to-do lists and other preparations in the weeks leading up to the celebration. Kierl is the administrative assistant for the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life,
“But they appreciate it so much,” she said.
Thank-you notes flood in year after year. For some couples — especially those without family nearby — the Mass and reception (complete with wedding cake) might be the only party they have.
Word-of-mouth has certainly helped attendance grow.
“I can’t tell you how many calls I get saying, ‘Oh, my friend attended last year and said don’t miss it,’” said Kierl.
She even gets some calls from couples who weren’t able to make it on their actual 50th and wonder if they might come for their 51st instead.
A few couples celebrating 60 years even asked to attend.
When the invitations go out, couples are offered the opportunity to bring up to four guests, and are asked to call the office if they’d like to bring additional guests.
“And they do call,” said Kierl.
Once couples start responding to the invitations, certificates are made for Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann to present to each couple, commemorating their 50 years of marriage.
During the event, Archbishop Naumann also calls each couple up and gives them a wedding cross that is decorated with double rings.
“Perhaps as you recall your wedding day 50 years ago, you were a bit nervous,” said Archbishop Naumann in his homily. “Some perhaps had doubts about your own ability to do what Jesus was asking you — to love another person for the rest of your life. Jesus promised that he would be with you and give you the power to be faithful to your promise to each other. And now, 50 years later, we can see how the Lord was faithful to his promise to you, how with his assistance you’ve been faithful to each other despite so many challenges and adversities you could not have foreseen.”
Kierl thinks some of the couples also enjoy filling out the response cards about advice they’d give to newlyweds. She sees a lot of advice about praying together — and, of course, communication.
“The nobility of what you were doing in your daily lives for the most part was hidden at the time,” said Archbishop Naumann. “It was hard to see how those daily decisions to live for each other worked for the good of your marriage and your family. Perhaps now, from this perspective of 50 years later, you do get a glimpse of this nobility of those everyday expressions of love.”
One of Kierl’s favorite parts of the day is watching the couples renew their vows.
“Just to see the looks on their faces,” she said. “Usually some of them are crying — tears of joy. . . . To me, that’s a beautiful part of the celebration.”
“I have the best seat in the house,” said Deacon Tony Zimmerman, lead consultant for the office of marriage and family life. “I stand in the back and I’m watching all this. . . . It’s just absolutely amazing to watch the way they look at each other.”
This event is such an important piece of what the office does, he said.
He’d love to see engaged couples going through marriage preparation see what happens here — especially in a world where many marriages end in divorce and many don’t want to get married at all, often because they’re afraid they would fail.
“Look at these couples,” he would tell them. “This is the sacrament of matrimony. This is what it’s all about.”