These four couples represent 280 years of marriage as each has been married 70 years. They were recognized during a Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass March 9 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony celebrated

Venice  | There is a misconception that claims that marriage is an old institution that needs to be done away with or redefined, because marriages do not seem to last.

Leon and Ann Reser disagree whole-heartedly. They will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary Sept. 5. They overcame typical struggles of a married couple while raising seven children in the Catholic faith, and credit their lasting holy bond to the Lord.

“Marriage takes work,” Ann said. “It starts with the Lord and love. From there you can do anything.”

Clearly this formula works as it does for many couples. To recognize such longevity, the Diocese of Venice held a celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony honoring couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more years of marriage. Some 545 couples were recognized by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during a Mass March 2, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, and another March 16, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. 

At an average 53 years of marriage, the combined years married totaled 28,885 years. Also present were 128 couples who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2019. One couple, Victor and Miriam Quintana of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, celebrated the 45th wedding anniversary on the day of the Mass at St. Leo the Great Parish. The prize for longest married, at 73 years, was Lewis and Barbara Keister of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

The Mass is a highlight each year for Bishop Dewane and said it is humbling to be in the presence of so many couples which stand in the face of a changing culture and are proud of their lasting marriages. “Thank you for what what you have done, and for the blessing you are.”

The Bishop said the couples are a true blessing to many others and it is important for them to know that. 

“Know the courage you give young people by your very presence,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You have to know the hope you give to the community, state, nation and world, by what it is you have done in your life. I think we don’t celebrate that enough and it is why we have the Masses recognizing significant anniversaries.”

The Resers are proud of their life together, which started in Ohio. They enjoy their 18 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren while living in Grove City and attending St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Ann said she has given the same advice to each of their children as they’ve approached marriage: the Lord must be their partner in marriage; realize you love one another; and know when to shut up.

Leon added with a wide grin that if you are the last to talk in any conversation, end it by saying “yes dear.”

Leo and Janet Zehren spend their winters in Naples and attend St. Ann Parish, but they call De Pere, Wis., their home. They recommend to young couples to trust in God, because He has a plan that is right for them.

Leo worked in a cheese processing plant and the couple happily raised seven boys and girls to be children of God. They have 19 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and credit living a good clean life to their lasting marriage. 

“I let him think he’s right,” Janet joked. “Really it’s a true partnership.

During the Masses, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage. 

A reception followed each Mass where there was lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.