Marriage was celebrated en masse at the annual Jubilarian Mass on June 5 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

For some of the 576 couples who renewed their vows at the celebration, this was the first time since their wedding day they'd publicly pledged to love, honor and be true to each other "all the days of my life."

Others come every year, like Ruth and Paul Poelma, who have been married 59 years and have attended the marriage jubilee Mass at the Shrine for nearly a decade. Ruth said that "faith has helped a lot" in their long marriage, as well as the blessing of children. The couple has three children and 10 grandchildren. Paul joked that if they are still around next year, they'll be back to celebrate their 60th anniversary.

Eight hundred and twenty nine couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 51 through 73 years of marriage registered for the Mass and received certificates from the Archdiocese of Washington.

In his homily, Cardinal Donald Wuerl spoke of how Christ made the sacrament of marriage "a means of grace" and told the jubilarians to continue to "be witnesses to the enduring quality of human love."

"We may fail but love stands firm when everything else is shaky," he said. "Your marriage is a witness to the power of your love but also a witness to the power of God's plan."

Pat and Bob Deffinbaugh believe that God has guided them in good times and in bad because they were both brought up to believe that marriage was a commitment. The two have been married 50 years and have four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Bob says he's blessed that "my wife stood by me through thick and thin."

"I just believe there's someone bigger than us that's taking a hand in all this," Pat said. "And believe me, with some of the ups and downs of raising kids, you needed your faith."

Pat added that her marriage advice for the harder times is that "You don't pray for results, you pray for strength to get through it."

The pair drove up for the Mass from Southern Maryland where they are parishioners at Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Solomons, and two other couples from their parish were also celebrating anniversaries.

After Mass, couples picked up their anniversary certificates, took photos with family and friends, and waited to greet Cardinal Wuerl as they exited out the main doors of the National Shrine.

(To see video testimonials by married couples taken at the June 5 Jubilarian Celebration, go to www.adw.org and click on the "Personal Journeys" tab.)