Bringing Back Civilly Married for Church Weddings


June is the traditional month for weddings, and there’s a lot to celebrate in the archdiocese in that regard.

First, congratulations are in order to the 144 couples who celebrated 50 years of marriage by renewing their vows at a Golden Jubilee Wedding Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral two weeks ago.

It was a big day for the couples, who honored and upheld the commitment made more than half a century ago when, as Cardinal Dolan reminded them, they asked God to make the journey with them.

“You asked God to be part of it,” said the cardinal, who presented the happy couples with a certificate commemorating the event.

Another 80 Golden Jubilee couples who were unable to attend in person also received certificates.

We offer, too, our heartiest congratulations to the archdiocesan Family Life Office under Dr. Kathy Wither, the director, as it launches its pandemic-delayed Convalidation Awareness Campaign to bring civilly married couples back to the Church to be married.

It’s an ambitious program, and we wish it all the success it deserves.

“Who doesn’t want to be blessed by God?” said Deacon Fernando Cortes who, with his wife Sidia, will help prepare Spanish-speaking couples to participate.

They know well the importance of that blessing. Originally married in a city hall ceremony in 1996, they undertook the necessary preparations to be married in a 2010 Church ceremony at St. Bernard’s in White Plains.

That there’s been a decline in Church weddings has long been known, and it’s not unique to the Catholic Church.

But matrimony is still, and always will be, a sacrament of the Church and, as such, married Catholics are expected to receive it if they wish to be in full communion with the Church. There sometimes are impediments to a Church wedding, such as a prior divorce without an annulment, but there are few obstacles—including that one—that cannot be overcome.

Changing traditions also come into the mix.

Destination weddings, beachfront weddings and backyard ceremonies are but some of the trends. Even at that, we see no reason why a Catholic couple cannot have a private Church ceremony conducted by a priest or deacon beforehand.

There are many ways, in other words, to tie the knot.

That’s what organizers of the Convalidation Awareness Campaign say as they encourage civilly married Catholics to participate.

“I try to emphasize how simple it is,” said Father David Rider, pastor of Sacred Heart, Monroe, who’s promoting the campaign in his parish. “Exchanging vows in front of a priest or deacon can take five minutes with two witnesses, or it can be a big wedding.”

So again, along with our congratulations to the Family Life Office for the initiative, we encourage all of our civilly married Catholic couples to take the step.

It’s a way to close the circle, to be fully engaged with the faith, and to recommit to the love that brought you together in the first place.


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