By FRAN PERRITANO
Jennifer Sadallah and Justin Worboys really wanted to get married in the Catholic Church, even if they had to travel more than 8,000 miles to do it.
|PHOTO ABOVE: Jennifer Sadallah and Justin Worboys on their wedding day, Dec. 28, 2019. Jennifer said it was important for them to be married in church. “I grew up in the Catholic church and marriage is a sacrament. I wanted to start my marriage with my faith and community.”
Photo by Michele Ashlee
“Justin and I were living in Thailand when we got engaged, but I wanted to get married at home and in the Catholic Church,” Jennifer said. “I needed to find a local parish and priest that would be willing to accommodate premarital counseling when we were visiting the United States for the summer and communicate with us while we were in Asia. Father Cesta was excellent and willing to work with us as a couple so we could get married in the Church. Also, Justin and I were going to have a December wedding and I had seen how beautiful Mount Carmel is decorated during the Christmas season.”
The couple was married on Dec. 28, 2019, by Father Jim at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament.
Why was getting married in church that important to the couple?
“We chose marriage in the church because we wanted to incorporate Catholic values into our marriage,” Justin said. “We continue to stay connected with Father Cesta and the church in order to honor our eternal vows.”
In an age when couples are married by justices of the peace, the mayor, a ship captain or cousin Billy who just was ordained online, why is getting married in the church and in God’s eyes important?
Parishioners Dennis and Helene Toczala will be married 58 years in August. They exchanged vows on Aug. 29, 1964, in St. Joseph’s New Cathedral in Buffalo after dating for more than two years
“Being married in a church was a public acknowledgement of our commitment to marriage,” Helene said. “The church wedding was the glue that held us together through thick and thin, reminding us of our vows to honor and obey, and our marriage was not something to be treated lightly.”
Dennis said being married in church “is one of the primary reasons we have been able to navigate through the stormy parts of our marriage.”
“Our vow is for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health — it can only work through God’s presence in our home,” he said. “(God) is love, and love is the glue that holds a marriage together.”
Helene said when their marriage ran into difficulties, she had to search for “meaning in our lives and, for that, I had to search for God.”
“The world had easy answers, like divorce, but that was not an option for me,” she said. “It forced me to make tough decisions that affirmed my marriage vows really meant something. Beside our fractured relationship, we had tragedies like my mother’s death and my father-in-law’s death in 1973, which hit us hard. Our marriage has been put to the test many times since then, but we learned to lean on each other, and with God’s grace, to accept what was happening.”
Spiritual dimension important
Peter Elacqua, our parish’s director of the Music Ministry, did a lot of research from many sources on why couples should get married in church. Here’s what he learned:
A church is so much more than simply a venue for your wedding. Unique and special things become part of your marriage — on the day of the wedding and beyond.
A church wedding will add a spiritual dimension to your marriage. The ceremony includes God and looks to God for help and guidance. Seeking God’s blessing is a humble way of affirming that God’s grace and the prayers of a faith community will make your marriage happier and more fulfilling.
The beautiful vows you make in church also are made in public amid the faith community, in a place where many couples from older generations have expressed their love for each other and have begun to build solid marriages. These public vows, made in such rich traditional settings, will help you stay together, grow together and develop the faith and values upon which you may build your family. God and your church community are there to support you and nourish you.
The priest and the faith community have a particularly important role to play in your wedding. The priest can blend ancient tradition and modern experience to reflect your story. He can personalize your wedding to make it memorable, meaningful and beautiful. Often, a wedding is the beginning of a relationship with a priest that can become particularly important as time goes on.
Church buildings offer outstanding beauty. Old or new, intimate or grand, Catholic and Christian churches are some of the nation’s most stunning wedding venues. These venues can underscore the importance of your marriage and help you to understand that your marriage is a witness to the entire community, and much more than just a confirmation of your relationship together.
Church buildings offer centuries of history. Imagine all the couples who have married in your local church, some of whom may well be your family. You can feel you are becoming part of history itself, the bigger plan, by marrying in the same place as your relatives. These sorts of connections can make your day even more special.
You can be highly involved in planning your church ceremony. Even though there are some restrictions, a wedding planner can help you understand how scripture and music can be used to make your wedding very prayerful and yet very personal. Often, couples who may not have imagined a spiritual dimension to their marriage are opened to understanding the depth of what marriage can be and can become.
For some people, a church simply seems like the proper place to get married. Churches can be described as peaceful, serene, or having an atmosphere that makes marrying there a particularly special experience.
The Catholic Church teaches that a wedding is a sacramental event. It is more than an exchange of vows or an expression of love. It is a sacred action, one upon which God smiles and blesses — so when it happens in a church setting with ritual and ceremony, it is not only memorable, but also formative.
Churches are different from most other places. They have an atmosphere of peace, reverence and respect. They are places where all are welcome; places that permeate a sense of God’s loving presence. Weddings are sacred moments, which ordinarily happen in the place where the bride or groom worships, with their families and their faith community.
A church isn’t just a set or backdrop for a wedding; rather a wedding is an expression of a faith community’s joys and hopes. Everyone in our community takes joy in your wedding. Your choice to marry within our faith community shows that you honor us as we honor you.
The ritual of a Christian wedding ceremony in most cases includes this significant statement: “By the authority committed unto me as a minister of the church of Christ, I declare that you are now husband and wife, according to the ordinance of God and the law of the state; in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This pastoral pronouncement seems to blend the twin notions of legal and religious authority in establishing the status of marriage.
Advice to couples
Jennifer Sadallah acknowledges getting married in the eyes of God is something special.
“The process of getting married in the church allows you to have a community of people to care and support you as a couple,” she said. “As a Catholic, it was one of the most special experiences to receive the Sacrament of Marriage in church.”
Dennis Toczala said, “Couples are more apt to stick together if they view their vows as a sacred commitment and not only as a civil contract.”
His wife said vows exchanged in church as more meaningful.
“Couples who are seriously committed to fulfilling their vows and who are prepared to grow in their marriage will look for ways to weather the storms,” Helene said. “As we mature, we learn that it takes more than romantic love to succeed in marriage. We struggled to find answers for ourselves, and we were blessed to have a firm foundation rooted in our Catholic upbringing.
“I would say that marriage is essential to our society,” she added. “It provides a base from which to grow a family, grounded in the love of God. The firmer and more stable and loving our family life is, then the more of that life gets exported out to our society. We all need more of that!”