Hundreds of couples recognized for lasting marriages

Hundreds of couples were honored during a Feb. 24, 2024, Diocese of Venice celebration of their lasting witness to Sacramental Marriage.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice recognizing 356 couples, who were celebrating a combined 17,635 years of marriage, for their accomplishment which brings hope to their families, to the community, to society and to the Universal Church.

The Bishop described the couples, married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years, as both radical and countercultural, but also a true inspiration for others to follow and emulate.

“The Sacrament of Marriage doesn’t always get the respect it should,” Bishop Dewane said. “Some say ‘No, it’s just ceremony.’ Or maybe it is a ‘social event;’ a ‘mere formality;’ but maybe something that is an ‘abstract ideal.’ Pope Francis calls it a ‘reality of which God is the author.’ The world might look at you and say you are not normal and not natural for staying married for many years. Well, you look very normal to me.”

Bishop Dewane called upon the couples to continue to live the fullness of their life together, using the grace the Lord has bestowed upon them, and guided by the Holy Spirit as they continue to live out the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

The 356 couples present for the Mass represented 41 Parishes and included 46 couples who have been married for 50 years. Of those couples, Paul and Patricia Chase, of St. Raphael Parish in Englewood, celebrated their 50th on the day of the Mass. Also celebrating their 56th anniversaries during the Mass were Ronald and Suzanne Hostetter, of St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers, and Gerald and Karen Przybylski, of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota.

The couple recognized as being present with the longest marriage was Russell and Jean Stanley, having celebrated 73 years on January 6. The couple grew up in New Jersey as high school sweethearts and were married in Springfield, at St. Joseph Church, which later closed and became a bank. Before arriving in Southwest Florida 34 years ago, they both had successful careers in education, Jean as a third-grade teacher, and Russell as a high school chemistry and physics teacher, as well as baseball and wrestling coach. The couple has four children, five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. They attend St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach.

Other couples recognized during the Mass were Thomas & Dolores Martorana, 73 years, from Epiphany Cathedral; Carl and Natalie Pensak, 72 years, from Epiphany Cathedral; Marvin and Carol Peschel, 71 years, from St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte; and George and Helen Magnan, 70 years from San Pedro Parish, North Port.

During the Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, for their participation, each couple was presented with a commemorative certificate, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage. A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice to accommodate the large number of couples wanting to attend. The first Mass was Feb. 3 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, bringing together 240 couples representing a combined 12,480 years of marriage.