MILWAUKEE — As a testimony of their commitment to the sacrament of holy matrimony, 143 couples re-committed the wedding vows they took 25, 50 and even 71 years ago on Saturday, Oct. 1.  Under sunny skies, the couples gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Church at the 100th Silver and Golden Wedding Jubilee Celebration where Bishop Donald J. Hying celebrated the Mass. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was JubileeMass1Alice and Russell Shumway of St. Aloysius Parish, West Allis, married 71 years, are greeted by Bishop Donald J. Hying, after they brought forth the offertory gifts during the Jubilee Mass. More photos from the jubilee Mass can be viewed and purchased at (Catholic Herald photo by Kevin Pauly)scheduled to preside at the Mass, however he was unable to attend due to illness. In his opening remarks, Bishop Hying said, “We are celebrating the beauty, power and sacramentality of marriage.”These words were personified with so many couples celebrating long marriage achievements, with one couple marking their 71-year marriage anniversary. Alice and Russell Shumway of St. Aloysius Parish, West Allis, have been married for more than seven decades. Alice shared these words of wisdom on how they have made their marriage last so long:  “Respect one another. Always communicate with each other.  And remember to say, ‘I love you.’”

In addition, Alice said love has helped them to stay together. She also noted that couples today don’t always do everything together. The couple, who brought the gifts up during Mass, has three children, 10 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren.

Norm and Nora Thoresen of St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove, is celebrating 50 years of marriage. The Thoresens, who have seven children and 26 grandchildren, have been involved with Marriage Encounter for 37 years.  Norm’s advice for younger couples is to “be flexible and respect, trust and love one another.” 

Nora attributed the longevity of their marriage to deep religious beliefs and their focus on family as the center of their lives.  They get together every month with extended family and agree that both of their sets of parents were good role models for them in their marriage.

During his homily, Bishop Hying said, “Moments like this remind us of our fundamental purpose and give us an opportunity to take stock in our lives. Back in 1961 (when the 50-year marriages began) and 1986 (when the 25-year marriages began), the world was a very different place. If you knew of all of the trials and tribulations you would go through, you wouldn’t have said ‘I do’ back then. You all would have been filled with fear. God gives you the grace along the way.”

After years together, the couples have experienced a variety of life lessons, including births, deaths, illnesses and financial trials all under the blessings of a strong Catholic faith.

“All the joy, the love, the faith has woven your marriage into a tapestry of stability, fidelity and generosity. Marriage is a glorious communion of two hearts, souls and minds joined in Christ,” said Bishop Hying.

He concluded his remarks by expressing gratitude to the couples.

“The church thanks you for being faithful through thick and thin. In our culture, nothing lasts forever and decades later, here you are. You make the church alive. We need your witness, your presence, your faith. This is the person God has given you to be the companion for your life,” he said.

As the couples renewed their vows, they were instructed to look into each other’s eyes as they took turns reciting their continuing commitment to each other. The couples looked at each other with the friendship and respect of lifelong companions and faithful spouses.

The jubilee is coordinated by the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, part of the John Paul II Center.

“Our job is to cultivate, promote and celebrate marriage,” explained Lydia LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project. “We want to evangelize to the world about the true and deep joy found in Christ’s teachings. To boldly proclaim that marriage is between a man and a woman. That marriage is life-long and life-giving is to be truly counter-cultural (in today’s society).”

At this year’s 100th anniversary of the Jubilee Mass, there were:

  •  61 couples married 50 years
  •  36 couples married 51-plus years
  •  21 couples married 60-plus years
  •  One couple married 71 years

In the past the archdiocese held two Masses each year in order to accommodate all of the marriages.JubileeMass2A couple at the jubilee Mass for couples married 25, 50 or more years, gaze into each other’s eyes as they took turns reciting their commitment to each other. They were one of 143 couples honored at the 100th Silver and Golden Wedding Jubilee Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Milwaukee on Saturday, Oct. 1. More photos from the jubilee Mass can be viewed and purchased at  (Catholic Herald photo by Kevin Pauly)

“It is a sad commentary that our marriages in the secular society, as well as the church, are dwindling,” said LoCoco. “We are definitely committed to catechizing all of our Catholics from even very young about the vocation to marriage.” 

Herb and Marie Stephens, both in their 90s, yet healthy and spry, have been married for 67 years. Herb chuckled when asked what contributed to the success of their marriage.

“I always got the last word: ‘Yes, dear,’” he said.

Marie added, “We have had a most wonderful marriage. We have always done everything together.”

The Stephens were married at Holy Apostles, New Berlin, where Herb, a member of the Knights of Columbus, has been a parishioner his entire life.