By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

In keeping with a popular long-standing Philadelphia tradition, couples marking significant wedding anniversaries will be recognized on Sunday, May 2, at Masses celebrated by Cardinal Justin Rigali at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

An 11 a.m. Mass will be for couples from Philadelphia or Montgomery County who are celebrating 50 or more years of marriage. A 2:30 p.m. Mass will be for couples from Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties, plus any couples throughout the Archdiocese celebrating 25 years or more of marriage. Family members are also invited to the Masses.

The local tradition started in 1978, said Msgr. Charles E. McGroarty, who was then head of the archdiocesan Family Life Office. “It was suggested by the Marriage Encounter people.”

In those days the parishes submitted names of couples married 25 or 50 years and an invitation would be sent to them by the Cardinal.

The Masses are still well-attended, although personal invitations are not issued in advance. Because there is no reserved seating, couples who might wish to sit near the front of the Cathedral should probably come early, advises Tara Plymouth, a staff member of the Family Life Office, the office that still coordinates the Masses.

“These Masses are an annual celebration of committed, sacramental marriage, love and families,” Plymouth said. “They give thanks to God for His blessings. The couples that attend are a witness to the world of the gift of lifelong marriages, the importance of the marriage vows, the love of the spouses for one another and their families and the love of Christ for the Church.”

Cardinal Rigali customarily greets the couples after Mass at the back of the Cathedral, Plymouth noted, and those who wish to have a picture with him as a memento of the celebration should bring a camera along, she said.

For those who might have need of it, there is a ramp on the parking lot side of the Cathedral that provides access to the Cathedral. Those who need further assistance should call the Family Life Office at 215-587-3516.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.