Greg and Judy DeVecchis will be married 50 years this fall. But Judy said she felt like a young bride all over again at the Diocese’s Golden Jubilee Mass, celebrated July 9 at Good Shepherd Church in Camp Hill.
The annual liturgy honors couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and invites them to stand and renew their vows in front of family members, friends and clergy as the Church celebrates the milestone within the context of a holy liturgy.
“I felt as giddy as a young bride,” Judy said of renewing her vows with her husband and hearing the Wedding March during the recessional.
“It seemed like yesterday when Greg and I started this journey together, and the Mass really brought back so many memories,” she said. “It was a beautiful Mass, and everyone made us feel special and welcome from the moment we walked in the door of the church… It is one of the highlights of our 50th anniversary.”
Bishop Timothy Senior was the principal celebrant and homilist for the liturgy, his first public Diocesan Mass. He was joined at the altar by more than a dozen concelebrating priests from throughout the Diocese.
“These 50 years, in many ways, have truly been fruitful, and you’ve had so many graces and blessings through your commitment to one another, to your families, your friends and communities,” the bishop told the couples. “We celebrate you today in a very important way, for the great gift that your ‘yes’ to married life has brought into the Church, particularly in our own Diocese here in Harrisburg.”
“We lift you up, especially at a time when marriage seems to be under siege” from a lack of understanding about the Sacrament of Marriage and the challenge of making a commitment.
“The vocation you live as married couples is cooperation with the vision of God, who created us in His image and likeness, male and female,” he said.
Turning to the day’s First Reading (Romans 8:9, 11-13) in which St. Paul challenges the Romans to “live according to the Spirit, not to the flesh,” Bishop Senior remarked that a marriage, in order to thrive, must take the same long-view of setting aside one’s self for the greater good.
“It’s a challenge to each of us, whatever our vocation is in life. We can’t just be seeking ourselves. We have to be willing to set aside what we otherwise might do to embrace the will of God and the good of the other,” he said.
Concluding his homily, Bishop Senior encouraged the couples to “pray that your love for each other may continue to deepen and grow even stronger as you continue to dwell with the Spirit in you. Recognize those moments where humility has made a difference, so that you together as a couple may reveal nothing less than the face of God Himself in your married life together.”
Members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Lewistown, Greg and Judy DeVecchis were one of 192 couples who attended the Mass and the reception that followed, and one of 275 total golden-anniversary couples in the Diocese.
With their official 50th anniversary approaching in September, the couple told The Catholic Witness they’ve already been asked the famous question, “What’s the secret to being married so long?”
“When we were talking about this recently, I think Greg summed it up perfectly by saying that living a faith-based life keeps your entire life in order. With God as the foundation of your marriage, everything else just falls into place,” Judy reflected.
“We’re both faithful Catholics and we have God first in our lives,” Greg echoed. “And we support each other. You have to realize that there are going to be problems and challenges in a marriage, and you have to support each other and help each other through them.”
Parents of two children and grandparents to six boys and one girl, Greg and Judy share fond memories and laughter about the story of their first introduction, made by one of Judy’s co-workers who was acquainted with Greg.
Judy was working as a bank teller at the time, and Greg went in to meet her at the request of their friend, who felt they’d make the perfect match.
“I realized right away that I’d like to go out with her. She was so nice and I felt so comfortable with her,” Greg said.
“I asked her out, but she didn’t say yes the first couple times. My persistence eventually won out, but it was a close one,” Greg said. “When we finally went out, I could see that she was so friendly and seemed to be everything I was looking for. Things blossomed from there.”
The two were married on September 22, 1973, at Holy Communion Lutheran Church in Yeagertown, by Pastor Rupp of Holy Communion and Father McDermott of Sacred Heart Parish in Lewistown.
Judy had been raised in the Lutheran Church; when their daughter was preparing for first Holy Communion, she felt a pull to attend church together as a family.
“I was attending the Lutheran church for a while, and Greg went to the Catholic church. We both felt that our faith was important to us, and that it would be good to go as a family, so I took instruction in the Catholic Church,” Judy said. “The Lutheran Church was very good for me growing up, but the Catholic faith added something very special with the Eucharist, so I converted and we’ve both been active in the Church. Greg is a Eucharistic Minister and I serve as a greeter.”
They said celebrating such a milestone anniversary within the Church, and with so many couples in the Diocese, was a great blessing for their marriage.
“It was such a nice experience. It gave me chills. I’m so happy to have Judy for 50 years, and it was wonderful to renew my vows with her,” Greg said. He expressed his appreciation to the Diocese, to Bishop Senior and to Good Shepherd Parish and its pastor, Father Neil Sullivan. The Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization annually hosts the Mass, and the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women distributes carnations and presents the reception.
Greg and Judy have some advice for young couples who are just starting their journey together. It involves service, love and faith, and it’s presented with a good dose of humor.
“Always take time to find something good about your spouse, and then tell them about it,” Judy said. “You can find enough things that are a little annoying – like not emptying the dishwasher right, or crumpling the wet laundry – so be sure to tell them the qualities that you do like. You have to tell them when they’re doing something nice!”
“It’s important to do things for one another, even the small things like helping with laundry, as Judy points out,” Greg said. “I keep trying with it, anyway. I bring it up from the basement and then I say a Rosary in the hopes I did it right,” he laughed.
“The laughter, his humility, the way he always looks out for me – those are things that made me fall in love with him,” Judy said. “I’d always say to the girls, ‘Find a Greg.”
“And I’d say, ‘Find a Judy,’” Greg responded.
(Photos by Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness. Photo of Greg and Judy DeVecchis courtesy of their daughter, Lori McMonigal.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness