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August 23 - September 5, 2015

How do you make it to mark 50 years of marriage?

By Michelle Martin

Staff Writer

There’s a lot of living in 50 years. There’s laughter and anger and births and deaths and everything in between. For couples who come to celebrate 50 years of marriage at Holy Name Cathedral on Aug. 30, there had also been a whole lot of love.

For Sharon and Thomas Mc- Grath, it’s a wonder that they are celebrating five decades together.

“It’s hard to envision it when you’re that young,” said Sharon McGrath. “I guess you don’t realize the things you’ll go through. What made it easy was having a partner to share the burdens with, and the good times as well.”

The McGraths have three sons. Both are now retired and enjoying an active life that includes sports such as golf and tennis.

Sharon McGrath said that if she were advising a young person who was about to get married now, she would tell them to remember to share their thoughts and feelings.

“Always remember your love and your faith,” she said.

Donald and Bernadette Baran were 23 and 22, respectively, when they married. Asked how it felt to be married 50 years, Donald Baran said, “Wonderful. Just wonderful.”

While the couple had every intention of spending the rest of their lives together, the idea of celebrating five decades of marriage never really crossed their minds.

“I never thought we’d get all the way to 50,” Baran said.

They had two daughters, one of whom died a few years ago, and they have four grandchildren. While Donald Baran is retired, Bernadette is still working as a branch manager at a savings bank.

Their advice for couples preparing to wed?

“You’ll have your ups and downs, but love and your faith in each other will keep you going,” Donald Baran said. “Sometimes you have to grin and bear it, more or less. Say ‘I’m sorry.’

Sometimes when you argue, you have to talk through what you are arguing about. Sometimes you leave it a while and it’s like it never happened.”

Ann Berry said she and her husband, William, had no idea what their marriage would be like.

“We made it to 50 years with some difficulties, but we persevered,” she said. “We really had no expectations. From seeing our parents survive their marriages, we knew we had a better start than they did. Neither one of us considered divorce, because we made a commitment ‘for better or for worse.’”

Ann Berry said they learned the value of working out a conflict before going to bed.

“Saying I’m sorry goes a long way, even if you feel you’re in the right,” she said. “If it’s hard to say it out loud, put it in writing. It always helps to seal it with a kiss and a hug.”

Berry said she and her husband came from different ethnic backgrounds, even different religions, and that caused some struggles.

“I was a first-born in an Italian family of six and my husband was number five in a family of six,” she said. “We were brought up very differently, which carried over in the rearing of our children. We made it through and still are in love.”

For Deacon Ignacio Alvarez and his wife, Beatrice, nearly half their 50-year marriage was spent moving around the country while Alvarez was serving in the U.S. Army. They married as teenagers — Ignacio was 19, Beatrice 18 — and had four children while they were still very young themselves.

For himself, Deacon Alvarez said, that was the right way to do it.

“When you are young, you can appreciate your children’s childhood,” he said. “You have the energy to play with them, and they can enjoy your youth.”

He did acknowledge, however, that his wife did most of the child-rearing in those early years because of his military service.

He also credits his wife with drawing him closer to his faith after he retired from the service. While he had always been a practicing Catholic, she was more active. He started to participate more in helping with catechism classes and in the charismatic movement, and then was asked to consider the diaconate.

He demurred at first, but then entered formation and was ordained about 15 years ago.

The faith his wife encouraged made it possible for their marriage to flourish, he said.

“Without faith, our marriage would have fallen apart a while ago,” he said. “You have to have commitment to do everything in life. When you have faith, you can call on God to help.”