Over 6,000 years of marriage clocked up by nearly 200 couples will be celebrated at St Chad’s Cathedral this Sunday (3 Feb).

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…

Finding Love for a Second Time

Jane Marie Hackett and John Barr met at church. They are both widowed. John’s wife passed away in 2007 and Jane's husband passed away in 2009.

They are getting married this August and are excited for their future together as Mr and Mrs.

"We used to see each other at church from time to time and we would have a chat," said Jane. "One day John asked me if I’d like to go for a drink or to the cinema. I didn’t accept his invitation but took his phone number which he offered and said I would think about it.

"It was some months before I called him only to find out that he was leaving in a few days for a holiday in Australia. We went for a meal when he got back from his holidays and started to meet socially after that.

"My parish is in Tamworth, Sacred Heart, John’s is in Erdington, The Abbey. We alternate between the churches at present.

"John proposed on Christmas Eve 2016 and a few days later had a heart attack and required a triple bypass, he was ill for a while but has made a remarkable recovery. I still don’t know if his heart attack was as a result of my acceptance of his proposal!

"We are looking forward to our wedding in August this year. The marriage ceremony will be in Glasgow University Chapel followed by a reception for our families and friends. Such exciting times.

"I will be 61 and John will be 66 on our wedding day, we are no spring chickens but have brought each other a lot of happiness and are looking forward to sharing our life together like any other couple."

Golden Wedding anniversary beckons for Stoke-on-Trent couple

Don and Julie Henshall are preparing to celebrate 50 years of marriage this August.

The couple, who live in Tunstall, married at Our Lady & St Benedict’s Church in Abbey Hulton on 23 August 1969.

Don and Julie, who celebrated their 70th birthdays in 2018, were both brought up in Abbey Hulton, so it’s likely their paths first crossed when they attended the local baby-clinic with their mothers!

“Our paths further crossed throughout our teenage years and, one day, quite by chance, we happened to be going home on the same bus and I asked Julie if she was going to her old school’s Christmas Dance that evening,” said Don. “It transpired she wasn’t and so our ‘first date’ was quickly arranged, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Don was not a Catholic when the couple married, but began receiving instruction and was fully received into the church at Abbey Hulton in 1972.

The couple have two daughters and three grandchildren, and Julie dedicated her entire teaching career to the school now known as Our Lady & St Benedict Catholic Academy, giving more than 30 years’ service.

“In 1987 we moved to Tunstall and now live next door to the Sacred Heart Church, which we have attended, and been involved with, for the past 31 years,” said Don, who was awarded the Ubi Caritas medal for his services to Catholic education.

“Sadly, our parents did not quite achieve their Golden Wedding anniversaries, so we are especially looking forward to reaching ours when we will be able to reflect on their inspiration and example which has obviously reflected on ours.”

Marie and Albert Gray - celebrating 50 years of marriage on 14 June 2019

Childhood sweethearts Catherine and John Maddox, married on 14 September 1974, celebrate 45 years this year

"We met when we were only 15 and 16 years old in 1969," said Catherine. "We met at a friend's wedding and have been inseparable ever since! We even worked at the same place.

"We married at St Mary’s, Wednesbury, (where I still attend Mass most days), in 1974 and we are celebrating being together 50 years and married 45 years this year.

"We believe marriage is very much teamwork and give and take."

“I met the boy I was going to marry, and that was it!”

And it sure was – as almost 68 years of married life later, Doreen and Wilson Cotton are still going strong.

The couple, who have lived in Solihull for 49 years, have a lifetime of wonderful memories.

They met in their hometown of Sunderland in 1943, during a WWII ‘Wings for Victory’ exhibition, where, as Air Cadets, they were manning a stall together (which was no coincidence, as Wilson had engineered it that way!)

“I met the boy I was going to marry, and that was it,” said Doreen, who spent her career as a teacher.

“But it was a long time later, after lots of disaster, joy and tears, that we eventually married.”

Doreen fell seriously ill and was out-of-action for three years, and Wilson followed in the family footsteps of a life at sea with the Merchant Navy.

“We used to pine for each other when he went back to sea, and so a decision had to be made,” said Doreen.

The couple married at St Mary’s RC in Sunderland on 14 July 1951, with Wilson being received into the Catholic Church two years earlier.

They have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and at one time were regular attendees at St Chad’s Cathedral, where they were founder members of the St Chad’s Friends and Wilson was chairman of the choir.

But for the last 49 years their home parish has been St Augustine’s.

“We have had good times, and challenges,” said Doreen. “My advice? Keep your marriage going. Never go to sleep unfriends. Never let the sun go down on anger.”

From the sports courts to a Caribbean cruise!

It was game, set and match for Philip and Monica Ruscoe when they met playing sports back in the late 1970’s.

And as they prepare for their Ruby wedding anniversary (40 years) this coming August, the pair will be celebrating in style on a Caribbean cruise.

Philip and Monica met through volleyball – “I plucked up enough courage to ask her out...I was petrified when she asked me in to meet her parents on our first date!” recalls Philip.

But the meeting was clearly a success as the couple got engaged in September 1978 in a multi-storey car park in Chester!

During their engagement Philip converted to Catholicism.

“Initially it was for Monica, but as I attended more sessions I came to realise that it was something I was interested in, believed in, wanted to be a part of,” said Philip.

“I have never regretted it. My dad, grandad and great-grandad were all converts too. My faith has played a big part and it has supported us.”

Monica readily admits the Church is very important to her. “Philip made a big, big commitment for me, and our faith has just got stronger over the years.

“Without the Church and our priest, I would be lost. You can ring him up, and he will be there.”

The couple married on 18 August 1979 at St Mary’s RC in Crewe, before moving to Walton in Stone, where they’ve been for the last 33 years, making The Immaculate Conception and St Dominic their parish church.

The couple have two sons, and whilst Monica loves to ‘potter’ around the house, Philip loves nothing more than riding his motorbike.

And their words of wisdom for a long and happy marriage? “Patience, understanding and caring. Compromise is also a big thing!”

“I was looking for Prince Charming and found someone real”

That’s how Sheila Green describes her first encounter with now-husband Brian, who she met at a Saturday night dance at Walsall Town Hall.

The couple, who live in Pelsall, celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary last September, and appear to have had a ball since the day they met!

“Brian asked me to dance, it was a jive,” said Sheila. “I had never been able to do a jive, but it gelled with us, I could do it. That’s what did it.”

The couple spent their first date chatting the hours away at Walsall Arboretum, and got engaged about 12 months before they wed on 14 September 1963.

In the run-up to the wedding, at St Joseph’s in Darlaston, Brian was received into the Catholic Church and the couple readily admit their faith has played a big part in their life together.

They are now parishioners at St Bernadette’s in Brownhills.

Brian readily admits ‘Sheila has always been my leading light’ adding: “We are grateful for our lives together, we are lucky.”

The couple have four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and for their Golden Wedding anniversary (50 years) enjoyed a party with family and friends.

They are both bowls players, competing in two clubs, and back in the day ran the judo club at St Bernadette’s school!

“You have just got to work together, be patient with one another,” said Brian. “We don’t always agree with one another – especially when it comes to decorating!”

“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 Monday 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 Caroline 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.”

Weddings Photo Album

Celebrating Love and Marriage