Mass for Longest-Married Couples Strikes Poignant Chord

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The longest-married couples in the archdiocese celebrated their love and commitment at Mass on World Marriage Day at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Feb. 12.

Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, the principal celebrant, noted that the husband of one of the longest-married couples, Vicente Marrero, had died on Friday night, Feb. 10. His widow, Marcellina (Cela) Marrero, attended the Mass with her family. The Marreros had been married for 74 years.

“He is here with you,” Bishop Lagonegro said when offering his sympathy at the beginning of the Mass, which was sponsored by the Archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office and Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

Bishop Lagonegro pointed out that he thought he had been alive quite awhile at age 68, but noted that most of the longest-married couples had been married even longer than that.

During his homily, Bishop Lagonegro, who is episcopal vicar of Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Northern Westchester/Putnam, told the story of English violinist Peter Cropper. He was given the honor of playing what was considered the most precious of violins, a stradivarius. Cropper fell and the violin broke into several pieces. A craftsman was hired to put the violin back together and the music it made when it was repaired was said to be even better than before it was broken.

Tying it in with the day’s Gospel from St. Mark, Bishop Lagonegro said the leper too was broken until Jesus put him back together. The leper and the violin, he said, show that sometimes tragedy can bring a wonderful outcome.

“There is no tragedy that cannot be overcome,” he said. “Whenever we think our life is ruined, we should turn to the one person who is always there for us at that moment. Turn to Jesus.”

Pointing to the couples at the front of the church, Bishop Lagonegro said he was sure they had experienced tragedy in their marriage, but they had also experienced joy. He said they must have relied on Christ to help them through their hardest moments as a couple.

“They can teach us how to love,” he said. “And how love of Christ can help us overcome the tragedies of life. We see their love and their love nourishes us.”

Mrs. Marrero, who brought a picture of her husband with her to the Mass, told CNY, "We always believe that in our marriage we have to separate ourselves from the bad and work on the good. Your words to one other should be a carrier of peace and never of worry or hate. You have to find peace and walk in her path. That is what we lived by and taught our children."

At the reception following the Mass, the longest-married couples all demonstrated how marriage joins two people together, often finishing each other’s sentences, knowing the joke’s punchline, or worrying about a spouse’s needs for a drink or safety on a staircase.

Charles and Marie Pasqua of St. Clare’s parish on Staten Island will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in August. Mr. Pasqua gave his wife all the credit for their long marriage, but his wife politely disagreed. “It has to be both,” she said. “There is no such thing as one-sided.”

“Angleina and Alfred Cassotta of St. Joseph’s in Bronxville, married 69 years, worked together for more than 30 years at a landmark diner in East Harlem. Their daughter, Leonila Cassotta, said, “They have been wonderful parents. They gave me a great moral life and showed me how to live the right way.”

Anthony and Teresa Stellabotte of St. Ann’s parish on Staten Island, have been married 67 years. They described learning how to live together while making sacrifices. “It was our faith that saw us through,” Mrs. Stellabotte concluded.

The couples renewed their vows as part of the ceremony. The other longest married couple, Tom and Anna Nassisi of St. Ann’s in Nyack, were unable to attend because Mr. Nassisi is healing from a broken hip.

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