CHARLESTON—Couples from all corners of the diocese braved the cold rain on Valentine’s Day to publicly celebrate the sacrament of marriage at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration on Feb. 14 looked a little different than previous years — with what has become the de rigueur of masks and social distancing — but the celebration of love and commitment was the same. The event is sponsored by the Office of Family Life.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and asked each couple to stand and hold hands while he blessed their marriages. In his homily, he said their commitment to each other is a powerful testimony during difficult times.
It will almost certainly be the last time Bishop Guglielmone celebrates the marriage Mass, which has become a favorite annual tradition, because he submitted his retirement letter to the Vatican on Dec. 31.
As he does every year at the end of the celebration, the bishop asked couples how long they have been married. At least a dozen had been married more than 50 years.
The couple with the longest marriage, 66 years, was Arthur and Eleanor Zawistowski of Little River, members of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach.
The Zawistowskis met while working at a company in New Jersey, dated for about 18 months, and married in 1955. They have one son, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and retired to Little River in 1993.
Both 88, they said the marriage anniversary Mass has become one of their favorite traditions and they attend every year. They treasure it so much that a photo taken with Bishop Guglielmone three years ago hangs next to their wedding photo. The photo from this year is also headed for a place of honor on the wall.
Mrs. Zawistowski said there is no complicated secret to their long marriage. “We just get along so well — we really do, and we go to church all the time, we’re church people,” she said. “I would just say the secret to marriage is to work out your issues and try not to have disagreements. Try to work things out.”
Other couples who could not attend the celebration participated in spirit.
MaryEllen and David Cervetti from Prince of Peace Church in Taylors are celebrating 25 years together. When they met in New York City in 1995, he was a computer science student from Uruguay and she worked with the FBI, handling investigations throughout the city’s five boroughs. Friends introduced them and the couple spent hours that first night just talking, Mrs. Cervetti said.
They were married in 1996 and had three children. She continued at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and he became a specialist in computer cryptography. When Mrs. Cervetti retired from the FBI to spend more time with her children, the couple moved to Greer to be closer to her parents.
Mrs. Cervetti said the key to their marriage was forged that first night when they met and talked for hours.
“You have to like the other person and you have to like talking to them and laughing together,” she said. “Through every trial we’ve had we’ve always been able to talk. Conversation and laughter gets you through.”
For Albert and Lillian Green, their 60 years of marriage started with a bicycle ride. Mr. Green had just returned from serving with the Army in the Korean War and decided to take a Saturday morning ride. He stopped by a neighbor’s and was introduced to the neighbor’s cousin, Lillian, who was visiting from Abbeville County. There was an instant bond, and when Mr. Green returned from attending Xavier University in Louisiana, the couple started dating seriously and were married in 1961 at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Anderson.
Through the years, Mr. Green taught physical education in Aiken County and Anderson and then started a career with the state Department of Social Services. Mrs. Green raised their three sons and a daughter. The couple moved to Columbia in 1979 and are members of St. Martin de Porres Church.
Mr. Green said the main secret to their 60 years together is simple — they love to be together.
“In marriage you need faith, just rely on your faith — and don’t try change each other,” he said. “Just be yourselves.”