The happy couples, their marriage vows renewed, crowd around the altar at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
90 couples renew wedding vows in Brentwood
Love was all around at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood, where 90 couples renewed their marriage vows at a late afternoon Mass on July 21.
The couples, dressed in their Sunday best and better, waited patiently for the wedding scheduled just before theirs to be completed. Patience, after all, ranged from 66 years married to two months married.
No one seemed to mind.
"I'm overwhelmed by the timing," said Jean Miller, who was waiting with her husband Donald. "We just celebrated our 60th anniversary," she said.
The Millers met in the fifth grade. "He was a neighborhood kid," she said. "I didn't like him at first."
Love has its own time.
"After he got out of the service, we got serious," she said.
They were married at Church of the Holy Family in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, where Donald Miller had served as an altar boy.
After living in Sunnyvale, the Millers moved to Brentwood in 2000, and have been parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary ever since.
Jack and Dolores McLean, parishioners since 2004, were among those who waited patiently. The vow renewal, Jack McLean said, offered "a way of reaffirming our love for each other and the Church."
"It's so meaningful," said Letty Pascual, as she and her husband Brig awaited renewing their vows, which they had done once before. "We went to the Holy Land and renewed our vows there," she said. This year, they are celebrating 40 years of marriage.
"Pray together; pray for one another; place Christ at the center of your spiritual life," Rev. Quang Ming Dong advised the couples in his homily. "Be in ministry together. Say I'm sorry and thank you."
Falling in love, he reminded, is not enough.
"You have to be in love to love with fidelity and honor the good times and bad times, in sickness and in health," he said.
After the homily, the couples were invited to stand, face each other and recite the renewal of marriage vows, which were printed in the worship aid.
After communion, two couples — one representing those married 60 years or more, and the other the newlyweds in the parish — placed flowers at the feet of the statue of Mary.
At the conclusion of Mass, all the couples were invited to the altar for a group photo. Neither the altar nor the camera's frame could contain all that happiness.
Racquel and Paul Dunavand were married on Cinco de Mayo this year. Married just two months — "almost three," he said — why renew their vows?
"This is a beautiful experience, to get an opportunity to do it a second time with your parish family," Racquel Dunavand said.
After Mass, the couples were treated to a catered dinner in the parish hall that was decorated every bit as beautifully as a wedding reception.
A jazz trio provided the soundtrack. Identically sized black-and-white photocopies of wedding photos the participants submitted were strung simply along a white curtain.
They drew a lot of attention, as the couples searched put their own photos, and shared stories with one another.
The evening was also memorialized at a photo booth, where bride after bride, passed the common bouquet to the next waiting in line.
Waiting in that line were Julie and Raymond Figueroa. They met in Paris at World Youth Day 1997, and were friends for a long time before marrying and having three children.
"This is a blessing for the priests to recognize the vocation of marriage in such a strong way," she said.
The marriage vow renewal was seen by the parish's priests as a way to recognize and re-energize the parish's senior community.
This may have been the first time the Brentwood parish celebrated the renewal of marriage vows. But it won't be the last; Father Quang told them as they sat down to dinner.
"July 20, 2018," he said.
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