Mass celebrates duration, devotion
Bucks County Courier Times - 15 Feb 2009

About 150 couples recalled tying the knot at the Valentine's Day ceremony.

For some time, Colleen Julian was thinking that it might be nice to renew her marriage vows.

She was just mulling it over again recently as she and her husband Robert drove past St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Croydon, where the couple lives.

"And there was this sign outside the church for renewal of vows on Feb. 14. It was literally a sign," said Colleen. Of course, they had to go.

Married seven years, the couple now has eight children between them, four of whom joined them at the Valentine's Day Mass at St. Thomas.

Robert and Colleen were one of about 150 couples from all over Bucks County that went to the service Saturday evening to renew their vows.

After the homily, couples all over the church stood, turned toward each other, held hands, looked into each other's eyes and repeated after the priest with words that reaffirmed their love for one another. The words were similar to wedding vows. Then the couples had their marriages and wedding rings blessed.

Finally, they kissed and the church erupted in applause.

"I was crying. It was beautiful. I was so surprised, because we didn't know how many couples would be there," said Colleen.

The pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Crehan, and the deacon, John Gallagher, both spoke to the congregation about Christ's love manifested in the love between married couples. They asked them to continue to honor one another.

"We imitate the love of God in our marriages," said Crehan.

Gallagher told people in the packed pews, "We can say to Jesus, if you wish, you can make our marriages stronger, more filled with love than they have ever been."

When the priest asked how many people had been married for more than 60 years, a few couples stood up. The longest-married said they had been wedded for 63 years.

The Valentine's Day event was a first for the church, said Gallagher.

"We hope to do it again and again," he added.

The priest told people to check out a small piece titled "What Makes Marriage Work" in this week's church bulletin. Communication, commitment and common values are all important, according to the article.

After the service, husbands and wives streamed into the dining hall next to the church, where red, white and pink balloons decorated tables draped in white and strewn with rose petals.

Carrabbas' Italian Grill catered an Italian dinner for the sweethearts.

Diane Baioni of Bensalem said renewing her vows made her remember her wedding day - not so much what was said that day, but the wonderful feelings.

Before he settled down to eat with his wife, Claire, and their friends from the Knights of Columbus, James Ireland of Bristol Township talked about how good it felt to renew his marriage vows for the second time after tying the knot 57 years ago.

"It has its ups and downs, but it's been great. It's a great feeling to renew the vows. I'd do it again. It just felt good."