AIKEN — Ivy and Joe Monahon of Aiken never thought a trip to Washington, D.C., in January 2004 would lead them to a very different destination: marriage.
The Aiken couple met on a bus trip to the National March for Life and eleven months later became husband and wife.
On Feb. 17, they attended the Diocese of Charleston’s eighth annual Wedding Anniversary Celebration held at St. Mary Help of Christians Church. The Mass drew more than 100 couples from around the diocese. Father James L. LeBlanc celebrated the liturgy.
The Monahons were honored for being the couple at the celebration who had been married the shortest time.
The anniversary celebration was started in 2000 by Bishop Robert J. Baker as a way to honor the sacrament of marriage and offer couples a chance to re-affirm their love and commitment for each other. The event is sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Family Life and takes place in a different part of the diocese each year.
The celebration has usually honored couples that have been married for a very long time, but this year it also attracted couples married less than a decade, according to Kathy Schmugge, family life coordinator for the diocese.
“We wanted people to know it was open to all married couples because we feel it’s an added grace for them to be able to celebrate their marriage no matter how long they’ve been together,” she said.
The Monahons decided to attend the marriage celebration because they wanted to connect with other couples in the parish and diocese.
“It was a nice way to celebrate our anniversary,” said Mrs. Monahon. “It was especially good to celebrate with others because of the great diversity of years of marriage. Some people don’t realize that this is a celebration for all couples.”
Monahon said the celebration was especially meaningful to him because he and his wife, who are both in their sixties, discovered the beauty of marriage late in life.
“Neither of us was married before,” Mrs. Monahon said. “My 92-year-old father walked me down the aisle.”
In an e-mail interview with The Miscellany, Father LeBlanc summarized his homily. He said that the situation of marriage among Catholics in the United States today is a challenge to everyone.
“Fifty percent of unmarried young adult Catholics do not consider it important to be married in the Catholic Church, in the sacrament of matrimony, in the Gospel good news as to the institution of marriage,” he said.
“Forty-one percent of younger Catholics are actually choosing to attempt marriage outside the church, the sacrament, and the Gospel,” Father LeBlanc said. “Thirty percent of Catholics now ‘married’ have done so outside the church, the sacrament, and the Gospel. Contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 93 percent of Catholics think that divorce is acceptable in some cases. Twenty-three percent of Catholics have been divorced at some time.
“On this second Sunday of Lent, heeding St. Paul’s call to Timothy, ‘bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God,’ the question is how are we long-time married Christians, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, doing passing on to our children and to our grandchildren the Gospel good news of Jesus Christ on marriage?” Father LeBlanc asked.
Monahon said he was particularly struck when he heard the marriage statistics.
“He [Father LeBlanc] gave statistics about how many marriages today break up, and it really reminded us of how important it is to pass on the value of marriage as a sacrament to the younger generation,” he said.
Jerome and Shirley Lex of Aiken were honored for having been married the longest time — 63 years. The couple hails from Milwaukee, Wisc. They moved to Aiken in 1999 and joined St. Mary Help of Christians.
“Father LeBlanc stressed how important it was for Catholics to follow their faith, especially in marriage,” said Mrs. Lex. “I truly believe that, because I know it was faith that really got us through so many years.”
She said they may have had their ups and downs as a couple, but always got through with the help of God.
“I don’t know where I’d be without the Lord,” she said. “It’s important to stay close to God … we credit that with helping our marriage last this long.”