Archdiocese celebrates long marriages

Raymond and Mary Angela Suell renewed their wedding vows during an Anniversary Mass Oct. 20 at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville. The couple celebrated their 69th anniversary May 6. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Raymond and Mary Angela Suell were teenagers when they met one June night in 1948 on a skating rink at the old Fontaine Ferry Park in the Portland neighborhood. Shortly after, Raymond Suell asked her out on a date and 69 years of marriage followed.

The Suells wed May 6, 1950, two years after they met. They were the longest-married couple at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Wedding Anniversary Mass celebrated Oct. 20 at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville.

The liturgy honored 118 couples celebrating 30, 40, 50 and 60 plus years of marriage. The Mass is sponsored by the archdiocese’s Family Ministries Office, one of the services and agencies supported by the Catholic Services Appeal.

Father Martin Linebach, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Louisville, presided at the liturgy. He greeted the couples by

telling them Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz sends “great admiration and affection for you.”

The archbishop has been in North Carolina receiving treatment for cancer.

During his homily, Father Linebach shared a story about a small town that had experienced a severe drought. The town’s priests, ministers and rabbis decided to hold a service to pray for rain. They invited the townspeople to attend and bring their religious symbols. Many came bringing Bibles, crosses, rosaries and crucifixes.

One person brought an umbrella, said Father Linebach.  All who attended were faithful, he said. But the one who brought an umbrella had the type of faith that “does not know time or place, knows the need, so prays, trusting that in the future God will provide,” said Father Linebach.

“My suspicion is that’s what you have experienced in the years of marriage life,” he told the couples.

Father Linebach also reflected on the Gospel reading about the persistent widow and the unjust judge found in the book of Luke.  In the parable, said Father Linebach, “three simple gifts are highlighted, the gift of prayer, the gift of perseverance and the gift of grace. … I suspect very strongly that all three of those made a home in your hearts as husband and wife.”

The Suells, members of Epiphany Church, described a union where all three gifts played a role.

Mary Angela Suell said “lots of prayers and patience” saw them through nearly  seven decades. “I think the commitment we took, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, we’ve been through every bit of it.”

She noted they had plenty of support from their family and the priests and religious sisters from their parish and children’s school over the years.

Raymond Suell said it’s the little details that ultimately hold a marriage together.

“I think it’s the little things that make the difference. Respect one another, be polite to one another. We don’t take each other for granted” he said. “Giving your spouse the same courtesy and respect you give others is really important.”

The two agreed that they worked well together from the beginning. Mary Angela Suell recalled how their marriage was challenged almost immediately. Raymond Suell, a member of the Air Force Reserve at the time, was called to active duty 11 months into their marriage. The Korean war had started.

Over the next year or so, the couple lived in Nevada, Wyoming and Texas, they said. Afterward, they returned to Louisville and life as usual.

Early on, they supplemented their income by hanging wallpaper together, said Raymond Suell. These side jobs helped them purchase their first home, he said.

Decades later, they still share the same spirit of cooperation. At 89, Raymond Suell, a retired lawyer and former judge, still runs a company doing real estate appraisals along with his wife.

“She’s my boss, but she won’t admit it,” he said with a laugh. Mary Angela Suell still does secretarial tasks and bookkeeping to support her husband, she said. 

After 69 years, Raymond Suell said marriage was “worth it.”

Mary Angela Suell agrees.

“Marriage is a hard job. You have to work at it consistently,” she said. “Parenting is a hard job. If you can survive the two, you’re blessed and we have been blessed.”

The Suells raised four sons (one is deceased) and a daughter. They have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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