A whopping 3,000 years of marriage clocked up by 90 couples will be celebrated at St Chad’s Cathedral next month.

The Archdiocese of Birmingham is hosting a Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday 3 February to acknowledge, and celebrate, all those who have pledged their commitment through marriage.

From engaged couples who are about to take their vows through to marriages of more than 60 and 70 years, all will gather together to celebrate this wonderful vocation.

And the most popular milestone marriage? Golden Wedding (50 years), represented by 20 couples.

Archbishop Bernard Longley will lead the special service, which starts at 11am.

Amongst the guests will be the following couples, who have kindly shared a little insight into their married lives…

“Equality in everything” - Stephen and Gail Brown look forward to their Golden Wedding celebrations

Gail and Stephen are preparing to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary back at the Didsbury church where they married, with a party at their reception venue too.

Married on April 7 in 1969 aged 23 and 24, the couple met through friends at university. Stephen initially proposed after only a few weeks of dating but Gail refused saying it was too soon, and as a Catholic asked Anglican Stephen to read up on Catholicism first.

Luckily she accepted his second proposal, and they married on Easter Sunday at St Catherine of Siena Didsbury- the first day they could marry following Lent. Gail qualified as a dentist one year later.

Now living in Kidderminster, the couple have two daughters: Charlotte 46 and Caroline 44, and two grandchildren: Lucas and Anna, who live with mum Charlotte and dad Chris in Didsbury, just around the corner from Catherine of Siena.

The couple have suffered some highs and lows in their marriage, with Stephen having a spate of redundancies in the 80s and 90s, and Gail having to give up the career she loved when she suffered a work related injury.

But Gail says “Marriage is a sacrament, the graces you receive help you through the difficult times. Church plays an important part in our lives.”

Despite remaining Anglican, Stephen has helped St Mary’s Harvington run their fete for several years. An enterprise that raises thousands of pounds a year.

Stephen says “One thing that helps us is very much having a marriage of equals.”

Gail adds “You have to compromise”

Stephen and Gail’s final advice is: “We fell in love very young but you must also have pursuits in common. You must also give your time to individual pursuits – but not let that override everything.”

The pair certainly have plenty to fill their time, as both are charity Trustees, as well as being founding members of a Friends of the Holy Land group.

Family also keeps the couple close: “If there’s something going on in the family, that comes first.” Many family members and friends will be taking part in the couple’s Golden Wedding celebrations this year.


“Marriage doesn’t come with instructions” – but Paul and Carole Costello seem to have figured it out!

The couple, from Northfield in Birmingham, will be celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary later this year.

They tied the knot in a Registry Office on 10 July 1965, both aged 17.

By the time they reached their Golden wedding anniversary (50 years) Carole had converted to Catholicism and so they renewed their vows as part of a traditional Catholic wedding service.

(And much to the couple’s delight that meant the big wedding dress, the Rolls Royce, the party and the band!)

“We have had, and continue to have, a very happy marriage,” said Paul, who at the age of 72 is still working as a school bus driver (a job he clearly loves!)

“When Carole said she was becoming a Catholic I cried tears of joy. It was like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. It’s been a wonderful journey.”

The couple have three children, and four grandchildren, and play an active role in their home parish, St Joseph and St Helen, as well as supporting St Chad’s Cathedral - Carole takes part in the annual Flower Festival and Paul is a Knight of St Columba.

“We have had our ups and downs, and hard times,” said Carole. “But my advice would be, don’t try to change one another. Marriage doesn’t come with instructions!”

The couple met when they both worked in Birmingham city centre, bumping into each other at lunchtimes.

“I worked in a jewellers and Paul came in for a watch strap,” remembers Carole. “I got every watch strap out, but he said ‘I don’t want a watch strap, I want to take you out’.”

And so their journey began, as Paul said: “We met, and that’s it, the rest is history.”


It's almost 63 years for Sheila and Vincent O'Connor

A holiday romance on the Emerald Isle back in the early 50’s led to a lifelong commitment for Sheila and Vincent O’Connor.

The couple, who live in Burntwood, Staffordshire, will be celebrating 63 years of marriage on January 21st, having tied the knot back in 1956.

Now aged in their 80’s – with five children, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren to keep them busy – the O’Connor’s are a formidable partnership.

Sheila was on holiday when she met Irish-born Vincent, and when she returned home to England they wrote to each other for 12 months, with frequent weekend visits to meet each other’s families.

They got engaged on Christmas Day in 1954, and were married in January 1956.

Their faith has played a huge part in their married life, with Sheila converting to Catholicism just before they got married.

“I did it on my own, it was the right thing to do,” said Sheila, who had a Church of England background. “I didn’t tell Vincent, just invited him when I was being received into the Church.

“I think it is very important, we were both the same, we felt the same. Our faith has played a big part.”

The couple were married at Our Lady of Lourdes in Hednesford, and are now parishioners at St Joseph’s in Burntwood, where they regularly attend Mass and join the monthly lunch gatherings.

When the children were growing up the family were also very much involved in May processions and Corpus Christi celebrations.

For their Diamond anniversary (60 years) they were presented with a framed certificate from Pope Francis acknowledging their achievement.

“The children did it as a surprise, it was wonderful,” said Sheila.

“I think the secret to a long and happy marriage is be truthful and upfront about everything. We work together, sort things out together. If we argue, it’s over and done with.”

And Vincent? “I am very pleased – it’s taken hard work but we got there.”


Douglas and Martha Burton, from Brownhills, are celebrating 55 years of marriage

They tied the knot at English Martyrs, Sparkhill, on 31 August 1963 and are now actively involved in life at St Bernadette’s in Brownhills.

The couple met in the canteen at work when Douglas was a 17-year-old apprentice toolmaker and 18-year-old Martha was on the assembly line.

“He used to sit where he could see me in the canteen,” said Martha. “He got someone to ask me to meet him – he was shy.

“He took me home from work on the back of his bike and after three weeks proposed.”

The couple had a three-year engagement before getting married and both had two jobs to make money and save for a house.

“There was no such thing as living together, sleeping together, back then,” said Martha. “It is so different now.

“It was so lovely and romantic then, we went to the pictures, dances, walks through the park. We didn’t have money.”

Douglas was received into the Catholic Church in 1983, having converted from the Church of England, but had always attended Mass with Martha.

They have three children, and five grandchildren, and couldn’t be happier.

“We do have arguments, but we have had a really good life,” said Martha. “It’s give and take. Have a lovely glass of wine, plenty of wine!”

And Douglas’ take on the secret to a happy marriage? “We get on well - we always have done. We have shared everything in life. We have had a really happy marriage.”


Martin and Val Scully, from Walsall, have recently celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary

They got married on 6 December 1958, and are still going strong 60 years on.

They took their vows at St Mary the Mount (as did Martin’s parents and grandparents) and are still involved in the life of that church today.

Both agree faith has been a constant throughout their married life, which has led to three children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

The childhood sweethearts (they met at school aged 15) celebrated their 60th anniversary with a Mass; their 50th anniversary with a Mass and a party, and their 40th anniversary with a slap-up meal.

“Without realising it, the involvement in the Church has been key to our lives together,” said Val, who was received into the Catholic Church in 1975.

“We have got on with it,” added Martin. “We have accepted problems, and fought against them. We have struggled at times, like every couple.”


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