“The longevity of our beautiful marriage is due to our faith in God.
We each see marriage as an agreement between our spouse and God.”
PORTLAND---“Faith is our truth,” said Meredith Charest. “We turn together to God with grateful hearts, thankful for each other and our family.”
Their stories, lives, and the strength of their faith are inspiring, and on Sunday, 30 Maine couples were honored for their nearly 1,500 combined years of marriage during the Silver & Gold Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
Couples who are celebrating major milestone anniversaries were invited to register this year, but all were welcome to participate in the celebration of the goodness of Christian marriage.
“Today, we want to mark those milestone anniversaries which speak to us of the enduring power and strength of married love,” said Bishop Robert Deeley who celebrated the Mass on Sunday. “This morning as we come together, we are honoring the people in our diocese who are marking special anniversaries of marriage this year. We had some 30 couples contact us who are celebrating 25 or 40 or 50 or even 60 years of marriage this year. This year, we are unable to have everyone come together for this celebration. It is another ‘virtual’ gathering. But it is no less wonderful to honor these special anniversaries.”
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Silver & Gold Mass was live-streamed, but a commemorative program and slideshow featuring some of the couples’ wedding pictures was assembled (viewable at www.portlanddiocese.org/olff/silver-gold-mass.)
An astounding 23 of the 30 couples have been married at least 50 years, including Michael and Nancy Boyington of Monroe. When Michael met Nancy, he was in the U.S. Marine Corps and she was a college student at Mount Ida in Massachusetts, but something inside sparked for both of them, a fire that God has helped keep lit for 51 years.
“We hold the values of kindness, generosity, giving to others and loving friends and family the best we can. That's what we admire most about each other. Sometimes it feels like the spirit of the ‘Gift of the Magi,’ when each of us would rather give more to the other. It feels so much better to give,” said Nancy. “We have love and respect for each other and love of God. Without him, we are nothing and we have nothing.”
And laughter is key, like in Mike’s assessment of a successful marriage.
“Make sure you always say yes to her," he said. “She's always right!"
“He does have a terrific sense of humor,” said Nancy. “Don't take things too seriously.”
Mike and Loyce Bolduc of Biddeford are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. A long way from their first meeting at a Valentine’s dance when they were juniors in high school.
“After four or five break-ups, we always got back together and knew this would be destined to last for a long time,” said Mike.
For 50 years, there has been a kiss and an “I love you” to start and end each day for the Bolducs, a perfect mix of romance and reality.
“There is a lot of give and take, mostly give, and many sacrifices and good communication along the way,” said Mike, before agreeing with Mike Boyington’s assessment. “Plus admitting that she is right all the time!”
Now 25 years married, Mark and Meredith Charest first met at Mass at St. Pius X Church in Portland.
“Mark sat a little bit closer from the week after Easter until July and finally asked me out,” said Meredith. “We dated for a year, were engaged a year, and married at St Pius X.”
She has known he was the one since an otherwise ordinary skiing trip over 25 years ago.
“I was following a group of friends on a trail at Mt. Abram that was too hard and fell. Mark stopped to help me up and I said ‘I’m cold, I can’t ski this.’ Mark said ‘It’s okay, I’ll carry your skis down, and we can get some cocoa and warm up.’ I was not a fun date, but he was so kind and lovely and caring.”
“We clicked early on and just knew,” said Mark.
“You pray about it, look for the good, and be grateful,” said Meredith. “It is a commitment you make and you have to expect good and bad times. The tough times make the difference. The romantic part changes and you have to stick to the commitment.”
For Phil and Carmen Rioux of Lewiston, the venue for love at first sight was Latin class in 1965.
“I saw this person of the female persuasion who had two black eyes. She reminded me of a raccoon. I found that quite intriguing and wanted to know more,” said Phil.
A first date of skating ended up being postponed after Phil, one of seven children who all insisted on coming on the date with him, was late to pick her up.
“It happened to be April 1, and Carmen was sure that I was playing an April Fool’s joke on her. As it turned out, skating was cancelled and I ended up watching The Ed Sullivan Show at her house.”
“Our personalities are totally opposite, yet we complement each other beautifully,” said Carmen. “In the five years we dated, I felt I would never meet anyone as sweet and loving as Phil.”
Different personalities, yes, but far more similarities and shared beliefs.
“I think the key to a long marriage involves mutual respect for one another along with acceptance of our shortcomings and building on our strengths which seem to complement each other. Prayer and faith are a big part in making a marriage work along with patience and forgiveness,” said Phil.
“A couple needs to buy in to the fact that marriage is forever and not dissolvable just because times may get rough,” said Carmen. “Sharing the same faith has been most important to the success of our marriage.”
Joe and Priscilla Angelo of Bridgton will celebrate their 50th anniversary on July 4, a long and winding road that began with a blind date.
“Priscilla’s best friend was dating my friend, and these two friends introduced Priscilla and me,” said Joe.
A long and happy marriage didn’t seem likely at the start.
“When Priscilla and I started going out, there was no certainty at all. I then joined the Navy and was in Europe for three years. When I returned, Priscilla and I broke up.”
But five years later, their paths crossed again, and in 1970, they were married.
“Whenever Priscilla and I turned away from one another, the opposite party was not ready to give up,” said Joe. “One could attribute this to love or a guided faith. Jesus is the bedrock of our relationship. Sometimes we struggled and hid from him, thinking of ourselves first. However, we always turned back to Jesus and he was there.”
David and Sandra Mansfield of Bangor also met on a blind date at a sorority function.
“I think we connected right from the start,” said Sandra. “We had a lot in common and talked for hours. We also went to a retreat, which bonded us further, before we were married. Faith has played a role in our marriage in terms of fidelity and communication. We came across our notes from the retreat and it has revitalized our marriage. We brought our daughter up in the Catholic faith, going to church every Sunday, and following her through all her stages of the Catholic faith.”
Susan and Richard Cloutier were married 50 years ago at the Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul in Lewiston.
“A long happy marriage is based on respect and love and that will help overcome any problems,” said Susan. “We know we can depend on each other and the impossible will be possible.”
Deacon Michael Boggs of the Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord in Old Town was married to his lovely wife, Janet (both pictured above), at St. Basil Church in Shively, Kentucky, 50 years ago. An amazing milestone, especially considering the conditions under which they met.
“Janet was being introduced to my roommate,” said Deacon Michael. “But I saw her and fell in love at first sight.”
It took him a couple of months to get up the nerve to ask her out.
“According to both of us, our first kiss on the front porch was it,” said Deacon Michael.
“Our longevity secret is love and being there for each other.”
He converted to Catholicism after ten years of marriage.
“But prayer and faith were there even before that,” he said. “Our faith in God has always brought us joy and happiness, and continues to this day.”
Steve and Kathy Beirne (pictured below) of Portland met in high school, discovering a similar interest in all things spiritual and religious, which can sometimes be difficult to find in fellow teens.
“We often say that we see God’s hand in our lives in retrospect. I’m not sure that we felt that God was pulling us together as we were getting together, but as we look back, we say nothing else could have made this happen,” said Kathy.
“She really listened to me, and that was astounding that I found somebody who really enjoyed hearing me talk and who had interesting things to say,” said Steve. “So, that really cemented itself over the length of the courtship.”
The two were married in 1967 on the Monday of Easter Week. Seven children and 53 years later, their life together has been so fulfilling that they have spent decades trying to help others discover what they have. Their work has included offering marriage preparation and enrichment programs, writing books and newsletters, presenting retreats, and more.
"One of the things that keeps us going in terms of our marriage is the joy that we encounter with young couples and the insights that they have, said Steve. “Many of them have wonderful, wonderful insights. We’re learning all the time from the experts but also learning working with young people about their life experiences and their hopes and dreams for their marriages.”
“God has given us this work. We’ve learned so many tools to help couples be happy together and to help us be happy together and that’s not separate from God’s presence in our life, those things that we learned,” said Kathy. “It’s been an incredible adventure together. It’s really been a lot of fun.”
Bill and Mary Loring of Augusta have been married 40 years, exchanging their vows at St. Patrick Church in Portland after initially meeting at work and discovering they were both Catholic and held common values.
“The longevity of our beautiful marriage is due to our faith in God, accepting that it is not always about yourself and having agreement on important matters,” said Mary.
“The key to a long and happy marriage is supporting each other in life’s experiences, working together, and thinking of the wishes of your spouse. We have prayed to God and relied on him during difficult times. We each see marriage as an agreement between our spouse and God.”
“Faith kept us grounded as a family unit and also granted us the unwavering support of our church community during difficult times as well as happy times,” said Lynn Kelley, who was married to her husband, Frank, at Our Lady of Good Hope Church in Camden 25 years ago.
Though their stories could not be more different, the one common thread among these couples and their beautiful lives together is the presence of faith in their lives and the inspiration, strength, and love it has provided.
“We just realized we were meant to be together and that our union was orchestrated by God,” said Sherry Kessler of Buxton. “David and I attribute our 25 years of marriage to the Lord himself. We’ve had many trials but God has seen us through it all and strengthened our faith as a result of the challenges we’ve had.”
“Faith is very important,” said Susan Cloutier. “Prayers will help to give you the wisdom to deal with any crisis, and the strength to face any situation together.”
“Jesus has always been near us in our 50 years together,” said Mike Bolduc. “Faith has definitely been a centerpiece to our lives and we have tried to pass it on to our three siblings and seven grandchildren.”
“Faith is our truth. We turn together to God with grateful hearts, thankful for each other and our family,” said Meredith Charest. “Illness, death, stress, grief...it is all part of a marriage. It is often when we feel God’s presence most intimately. Having a common belief and a faith makes us feel we aren’t in this alone and there are bigger issues in life no matter what you are facing.”
“Pope Francis reminds us that marriage is the sacrament that attracts attention. People can see something happening in the life of the couple who are married,” Bishop Deeley told the couples. “Though it is a source of grace for the couple, therefore, it is also a gift to the Church. And this is particularly the case when we see marriage lived faithfully for decades. It says that love is possible. It is a reflection of the very image and likeness of God.”