Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic Herald Thursday, 08 March 2012 11:46
Weddings have become more elaborate and expensive. The first decision is often booking the hall a year or two in advance of the wedding and filling all the engagement time with planning: wardrobe, reception, dinner, dance, music, flowers, decorations, gift registry, guest list, invitations, photographer, parties, honeymoon. Finally, almost as an afterthought, the Mass with the priest is scheduled.
Like any couple, Nicole and Jim were looking forward to their reception, but they opted to focus on the most important aspect of their wedding, the Mass. Since Nicole serves as the director of Christian formation at St. Catherine Parish in Granville, the couple’s engagement became a part of the parish community and Jim, a law enforcement officer, became one of their own.
“Over the year that we were engaged, parishioners were just as excited and supportive as most of my friends and family, asking me how things were going and praying for us,” said Nicole. “Even during the last few months, they were sharing in the countdown each week.”
While they could have held their wedding at another parish, St. Catherine seemed like home, and both decided the wedding would not be complete without being able to celebrate with their parish family. Through the parish bulletin, Nicole and Jim extended an invitation to their entire parish community to attend the wedding, as well as a small cookie and juice reception in the parish after Mass.
“The Mass was what was most important to us, and we wanted the community to be there to pray with us and support us,” said Nicole. “Working with families, teens, kids and even adults, and being a visible part of that community, it’s natural to develop relationships and a sense of belonging, and when it came down to it, we wanted them to feel welcome to come and support us in prayer.”
Planning to include parishioners in their most important day dovetailed into Nicole’s lessons to high school students about relationships, dating, dresses, flowers and sacrament.
“The parents and children seemed excited to be invited and I was so grateful for the opportunity to stand with them on our wedding day and express how grateful we are for their love and support,” said Nicole.
While inviting an entire parish community to celebrate a wedding Mass is unusual, an added surprise to the community was having Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki as the main celebrant.
“It was certainly very special,” said Nicole. “The archbishop is a great priest, and a good friend of our family. My parents are both faith-filled loving people with a gift for hospitality – every person is important to them. Between growing up with that example, my mother working for the church (as secretary to the archbishop), and working for the church myself, we’ve come to develop friendships with many priests – the archbishop among them. Standing on the altar with all of our concelebrating priests and the archbishop …. wow, we felt very supported in prayer.”
Being invited to attend Nicole and Jim’s wedding was not a surprise to St. Catherine parishioner Ginny Chmiel, as she knew the couple had made an impression on many in their tightly woven community.
“They really wanted us there and it wasn’t just to have people there, it was because they made everything very personal and we were more than happy to celebrate the day with them,” she said. “I knew how happy Nicole was about the wedding and you felt that when you walked into the church. There was a large gathering of family, friends and parishioners and we were so delighted to see to many parishioners – not just people who worked with her in the church. She obviously made an impression on many people, and it was such a happy, prayerful wedding.”
Like Chmiel, parishioner John Scholz was struck by the parish-wide invitation to the Bournes’ wedding.
“It was a beautiful idea and one that I had not heard of doing before,” he said “It was truly a community event and interesting because we saw her family, then saw the members of the community all supporting her. It was very special to have the archbishop celebrating the wedding, too; he is such a personable guy.”
With a position in the parish such as Nicole’s, Tony Kuchan admitted that inviting the parish to celebrate seemed to be the perfect and most generous means to include everyone in their celebration.
“We had a good turnout; I can’t even estimate how many from the parish attended, but we were well represented as a Catholic community,” he said. “The archbishop was a marvelous surprise and it was very special that he would have taken the time to come and celebrate their wedding Mass. He gave a great homily. It was very personal and gentle and he really presented a very caring part of the verbal celebration.”
Just after their vows, Archbishop Listecki asked Nicole and Jim to turn around and look at all of the smiling faces of the people who were present and supportive of their wedding.
“It was incredibly special to be able to celebrate with all of those people,” said Nicole. “I felt honored that my husband of about six seconds and I could be witnesses to God’s love in our lives to all those gathered there. It was wonderful and moving to see that so many people from the parish cared about us, and our lives together enough that they were willing to take the time out of their busy lives to spend the afternoon with us. Working at St. Catherine is my job, yes, but it is really more than that. In ministry, you end up sharing a lot of yourself and your life with people, and your personal life becomes intertwined with the life of the parish community. I could not have imagined not having that community as part of our day.”