WACONIA — There was a buzz before the 5:15 p.m. Mass Feb. 22 at St. Joseph Church in Waconia as seven couples with corsages and floral bouquets gathered for the processional with Father Stan Mader, the pastor.
After walking up the aisle to the sanctuary, Father Mader told the congregation that this Mass would be called “My Big, Fat Catholic Wedding.”
Playing on the title of the 2002 romantic comedy, Father Mader explained that seven couples who had been married in civil ceremonies would have their marriages convalidated — celebrating the sacrament of marriage according to the rites of the church — during the Mass.
He came up with the idea several months ago while talking with parish staff members about how to reach out to married couples. They searched their parish and school files to identify couples who had not gotten married in the church, then invited them to have their marriages convalidated during Mass. Nine couples accepted, with seven able to make the special event.
“Behind it all is wanting to support sacramental marriage,” Father Mader said.
To prepare, couples were offered a three-hour session on marriage in the church. Meanwhile, parishioners were notified of the event in the parish bulletin.
A parishioner donated money for an after-Mass dinner. Another parishioner, Dana Young, a professional photographer, volunteered to photograph the couples. And, one of the 14 involved in the ceremony, Regina Treml, a professional florist, provided bridal bouquets.
“I just thought that way we could make it more of a ceremony,” said Regina Treml, 48, owner of Belladonna Florist in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Regina and her husband, Tony, were married in 2003 and have a son, John, who is a sixth grader at St. Joseph School.
“We wanted to get the marriage blessed, especially with John going through the school and learning more about the sacraments,” Regina Treml told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In addition to having his marriage convalidated, Anthony Hauck became a Catholic during the Mass. He was confirmed and received his first Communion, and in between those sacraments, had his 14-year marriage to Trishia blessed.
“It’s very overwhelming,” said Anthony Hauck, 43. “It’s been a long time in the making. … It feels great.”
Clare and Charlie Urbia were married in December. Clare, who is 38 and a lifelong Catholic, talked to Father Mader shortly after their civil ceremony and was invited to the Feb. 22 Mass.
“I was just thrilled to reconcile this with the church,” Clare Urbia said. “You want to be in that state of grace when you receive the Eucharist. I just really wanted to do that.”
For Justin and Amy Olivieri, the impetus for participating was their daughter, Angelina, 9, who started going to the parish school in December.
“She really wanted to know more about God,” said Amy Olivieri, 42. “We weren’t doing our job in that. When we toured the campus and the school, she loved it. So, really, this was driven by her.”
Anne Reiner came to the Mass with her family. She said she felt “uplifted” watching the couples have their marriages convalidated.
“I just think marriage is something that kind of falls by the wayside these days,” she said. “So, I think … even though they’ve been civilly married, to take that extra step to make it a sacramental marriage is just heartwarming.”