Annual World Marriage Day Mass will honor long-married couples from the diocese
By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
Pat Krzyzewski had no idea a trip to the beach would change her life.
It was 1958 and Pat was in her last year of training to be a nurse. She and some friends were vacationing on the beach when the young men on the blanket next to them struck up a conversation. Pat noticed one man hanging back.
“I said to one of the guys, ‘Is your friend bashful?’ And he said, ‘That’s my brother Al. Hey Al, get over here!’” Pat recalled with a laugh.
That fateful meeting on the beach led to a year-long courtship, and in October 1959, Al and Pat tied the knot. The rest is 52 years (and counting) of history.
Lasting love stories like the Krzyzewskis’ will be celebrated Feb. 12 at the annual World Marriage Day Mass at the Cathedral. More than 800 couples from the diocese have been invited to the Mass, where Bishop Robert Cunningham will recognize couples celebrating “silver, gold and beyond anniversaries,” said Jennifer Kerns, coordinator of marriage and family enrichment for the Office of Family Life Education and organizer of the event. “It’s a day set aside to honor couples who reflect God’s light in their love for each other.”
Bishop Cunningham said he looks forward to the Mass each year.
“It is always a day of great joy for the couples, their families and friends who join with them. The ceremony honors those who have lived out the sacrament of marriage in good times and in bad; in sickness and in health. It also reminds all of the sacred vocation to which they are called. And it invites us to pray for the strengthening of marriage and family life,” Bishop Cunningham said.
Indeed, Pat cites faith and family — the couple has five children and 13 grandchildren — as two factors that have kept her marriage strong over the years.
“We take our vows very seriously, and our commitment to each other and to our faith,” Pat said. A wry smile crept into her voice as she remembered one Sunday in particular when Al helped her keep that commitment.
“I was pregnant and not feeling well, and I told Al I thought I better not go to church. He said, ‘Oh no, we’re going to church. It’ll make you feel better!’” Pat said.
The couple, parishioners at Most Holy Rosary Church in Maine, is looking forward to their first World Marriage Day Mass and to meeting the other couples who will be honored.
“It sounds so wonderful and we’re so blessed to be able to celebrate together,” Pat said.
Among those also celebrating will be Veronica and Frank Tokarz, who will be honored for 75 years of marriage.
Veronica met Frank when she was just 15 years old — he and some friends drove up to a party she was having, intent on crashing it — and the two later “courted by mail” while Frank was living in Skaneateles and Veronica in Syracuse. They were married in 1937 and raised a son and a daughter; their family now includes two grandsons and two great-granddaughters.
“The Lord has been kind to us,” Veronica said.
She, too, said that a shared commitment to faith and family is the key to a lasting marriage.
“We were always doing activities as a family — Sunday picnics, visiting museums, celebrating holidays. There was always something to look forward to. That was important to us,” she said.
Also important is honoring the sacrament of marriage.
“When you take your vows, it’s ‘til death do you part,” Veronica said.
Veronica and Frank remain active members of their parish, St. Mary of the Lake in Skaneateles, where they attend daily Mass and lead the rosary. The congregation is like an extended family, their daughter Nancy said, helping them to celebrate big occasions like their upcoming anniversary.
Veronica and Frank have attended all but one World Marriage Day Mass since the tradition began in the diocese in the 1980s and say that, as the couple recognized as the longest-married in the diocese, they can’t imagine missing it.
They also offered the same marriage advice as their fellow honoree Pat: When times get tough, get through them together.
“I’d tell young couples ‘hang in there,’” Pat said. “Marriage is not always a bed of roses, but in the end, it’s great.”