Sheila Grove

Blessed are you, Lord, for in the good and bad times of our life,
 you have stood lovingly by our side.
Help us, we pray, to remain faithful in our love for one another,
so that we may be true witnesses to the covenant
 you have made with humankind.


NORTHWEST PENNSYLVANIA — Each year, in the Diocese of Erie, these words of affirmation and gratitude are prayed by couples marking milestone wedding anniversaries. Husbands and wives of 25, 40, 50, 60 and more years are honored at a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Lawrence Persico. 

Bishop Lawrence Persico greets long-married couples
after the milestone anniversary celebration at Sacred
Heart Parish in Erie in 2019.       Photo/Sheila Grove

          For those in the Western and Eastern vicariates, Mass will be offered at Immaculate Conception Parish in Clarion on Aug 1, 2021. Couples from the Northern Vicariate will gather on August 8, 2021 at St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Erie. Both events will begin at 2 pm.   

          In addition to affirming their vows, couples will receive a special blessing from Bishop Persico and a commemorative scroll from the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the Diocese of Erie. 

          Kate Wilson, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life, says, “I’m grateful that our diocese pauses for a moment each year to celebrate these milestone anniversaries. These couples’ experience of married love is a beautiful witness to the tenderness and fidelity of God’s love for each of us.” 

          This year, in addition to providing event sign-up information important for the program, couples are being offered the opportunity to share an anecdote prompted by “I knew I loved you when…”

           “It is a chance to look back to what they have been given and an opportunity to look forward together,” says Wilson. Many couples have been eager to share tales of their romance.

          Kenneth and Bonnie Rimer, from St. Mary Parish in St. Marys, who have been married 51 years, shared, “It was love at first sight for both of us.”  Henry and Rose Ann Garbulinski, of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Erie, relate a similar experience after 50 years.

Couples gathered for Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in 
Erie to celebrate marriage in 2019.     Photo/Sheila Grove

          “The first time we went out together,” is when they remember knowing they were meant to be together.

          A little ancestry information was confirmation for Earl and Josephine Mittelmeier from Sacred Heart Parish in Erie. Josephine recalls that, “I first met my husband through a mutual friend who was Italian. I was Italian. Earl looked Italian, but when he told me his name was Mittlemeier, I didn’t believe him! Here we are 61 years later.”

          Lori Follet shared a young girl’s crush in words directed to her husband, Crispin. “I so longed to go to work at our family farm…thinking I may just catch a glimpse of you, or you would talk with me…You were my first love, and it was love at first sight. I am blessed and happy to be married to such a kind man who waited for me to grow up…. I love you ─ then, now and forever. The couple, from St. John the Baptist Parish in Erie, has been married 25 years.

         Joseph and Lois Legnasky, from St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Erie, credit their 50 years to “enjoying the ups and working ─ sometimes struggling ─ through the downs.” They add, “being a team player is not easy all the time. You must give of yourself at times that you don’t want to. Our belief in God …[helped] our marriage hold together for so long. He never promised it would be easy, but here we are.”

          After knowing each other in high school and college, Harold Eisert reports that he and his wife, Janet, of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Erie, were separated when Janet’s family moved to Florida. Janet’s grandmother showed Harold a photo of Janet in Florida which prompted a rekindling of their relationship. Suddenly Florida didn’t seem so far away. Harold flew to Florida and proposed. As they celebrate their 65th anniversary, Harold reports that sailing at Presque Isle has been a big part of their family’s life. Janet admits to not really liking sailing but really liking to be with Harold who reports, “We will sail off into the sunset of eternity.”

          Fran Segal, of St. George Parish in Erie, says that her husband of 65 years, Andrew, “was home on leave from the Army. We knew right away that we had something special. We saw each other for the few weeks before he was deployed to Germany and kept in touch the 15 months he was gone. We were engaged a month after his return. We just knew that we had both found our true love.” 

Bishop Lawrence Persico accepts the offertory gifts at the
anniversary celebration at Sacred Heart Parish in 

Erie in 2019.                                Photo/Sheila Grove

          The trials and stress of living in a pandemic affirmed the love and commitment of Ronald and Cynthia Ruff, from Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Erie. Although not ill with COVID, when Ron was hospitalized recently, restrictions and pandemic-related limitations added to the stress. “The power of prayer and the grace of God got him through,” says Cynthia, who reported a surprise anniversary car parade with family and friends for their 50th anniversary following his discharge.

          Larry and Beverly Albert, of St. Brigid Parish in Meadville, remember the honor of having Father Paul Schill officiate their marriage on a beautiful March day 50 years ago. Father Schill, who died in June, is remembered fondly in the multiple parishes he served in the diocese.

          From first crush to exploration of ancestry with a dose of humor and a lot of faith in God thrown in, the longevity of these marriages underscores the value of commitment and willingness to work together through happy times and times of trial.

          Kathleen Johnson, of All Saints Parish in Waterford, might add creativity and a touch of romance to the list. In celebration of their 25th anniversary, her husband, Robert, took a photo of her wedding bouquet to a florist, then surprised her at work with the delivery of an exact replica and hired a limousine to provide her with a luxury ride home. That was 25 years ago for this couple celebrating 50 years. Nice touch!

          Registrations for the event are being accepted through July 21 for Clarion and July 28 for Erie. Information can be found at The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pa. (eriercd.org).