Denver-area couples marking milestone anniversaries joined Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for a special Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Northglenn Oct. 8 to celebrate.
Among those being honored on Sunday were Judy and Dean Steen. They were married in 1970 at St. Mary Magdalene in Wheat Ridge on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Judy Steen told the Denver Catholic she was grateful for the Anniversary Mass and had missed the opportunity to celebrate their 50th anniversary due to the pandemic.
“I think it’s nice. It’s very special to me. I was really upset when they had canceled it during Covid,” Steen said. While her husband is Lutheran and rarely attends church with her, she is a longtime parishioner at Light of the World Catholic Parish in Littleton.
“On our 40th anniversary, someone asked us how we were together that long and I said ‘Mutual respect and a big house’,” she added.
How does she feel to be married for so long?
“It’s great,” Steen said. “We’ve been together for 53 years and he’s a good man. He’s taken good care of me.”
Cesar and Suzie Lopez at Ascension Catholic Parish in Denver have been married for 28 years.
“It doesn’t even feel like the years have gone by,” said Suzie. “It just feels like every year is a new adventure again.”
“There’s nothing more beautiful than actually living the sacrament with your partner,” she added. “People should not be afraid of getting married and committing to having a family, especially when society is telling you that it’s not a good thing.”
The two were married at St. Emydius Catholic Church in the Los Angeles suburb of Linwood, Calif. They moved to Denver 21 years ago. They see the move as “providential,” given the continued impact of Pope John Paul II’s 1993 visit.
“Coming here to Denver just made our faith stronger,” Suzie’s husband Cesar said. Though he had been an altar boy growing up, the couple did not regularly practice their faith in California.
“It wasn’t until we were in Denver that we started actually going to church, at Queen of Peace,” Suzie said. She praised the Aurora parish’s diversity and welcoming attitude, especially for those arriving from a different state.
The Lopezes began to participate in different groups and parish activities and later began attending Ascension Church. They have two sons, Jessee and Christopher. Jessee is discerning the priesthood in his Propadeutic Year at St John Vianney Seminary.
Suzie’s advice for married couples? Date night without the kids.
“Just don’t be selfish yourself,” Cesar added. “We don’t have a perfect marriage, but you know, 28 years, I think it’s a blessing.”
“Actually offer it to God,” he said. “Without him, I think we would be lost. God’s the one that has helped us prevail and to make it through thick and thin… surrender to him and hand over everything (to him), no matter what happens.”
Raymond and Janice Pelster celebrated 65 years of marriage in June. They were married in Eglin, Nebraska at St. Boniface Catholic Church. They have attended previous milestone Masses.
“I really thought it was an honor for us,” Janice said. “It was good to see how many couples there were.”
The couple first moved to Denver in 1959, then left for several years in military service before returning. They have been parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary since 2006 and previously attended All Saints in southwest Denver.
Janice offered her advice for married couples: “Communicate and listen better. Give each other another chance to talk and then also to listen.”
“It was hard at times,” she said. “Just remember that it’s a sacrament, and you have to hang in there no matter how bad the day went.”
“We always hung in there,” Ray added. “We had a family and children. We tried to raise them.”
The Pelsters have five children and seven grandchildren. They have longtime friends who are also celebrating a long marriage and who have supported them in tough times. Ray was very sick a year ago and family and friends rallied to help them both.
Janice noted that their parish senior group’s members are mainly widows.
“You look around and boy, you’re appreciative,” she said. “It makes you stop and say ‘Thank you, Lord!’”
John and Patricia Berson at St. Francis of Assisi in Longmont celebrated 60 years of marriage on June 8. They were married at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. They have four children, ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
“It’s been an interesting journey raising kids and trying to stay in a parish that has some meaning for us,” said Patricia. They have previously been members of St. John the Baptist in Longmont and St. Thomas Aquinas in Boulder.
The two attended the archdiocese-organized anniversary Masses for their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries.
“That was a nice experience. So we decided to give it a shot again,” said John. In his view, at their age milestones are “kind of a survival story,” given medical problems and disabilities that come with age.
“We get to church regularly and depend a lot on our morning Masses to set the tone for our day and then just carry on from there,” he said.
“Keep God in your life,” said Patricia. Ray added: “And maybe not take yourselves too seriously.”
At the Anniversary Mass on Sunday, Archbishop Aquila said in his homily that the celebration recognizes “the gift of marriage and the blessing of marriage” and the years the couples have been joined together as husband and wife.
“That is always a tremendous witness and a tremendous blessing,” he said. “We give gratitude to the Father for your living out the gospel and the sacrament of your marriage.”