Bishop Mark O'Connell poses with couples following the marriage validation ceremony held at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Revere Oct. 19. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
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REVERE -- "Wear whatever you would like and bring a minimum of two witnesses." Those were the instructions for eight couples who had their marriages validated by Bishop Mark O'Connell in a ceremony at St. Anthony of Padua Parish on Oct. 19.
Bishop O'Connell told The Pilot that the idea of holding a group wedding for couples who had not married in the Church came up during a meeting of priests in one of the vicariates.
"The priests commented that there are people who could have their marriages validated in the Church but they aren't doing it. We decided to give them a chance to come together for one validation ceremony with no cost and little fanfare," Bishop O'Connell said in an email.
The eight couples who signed up were Alba Arevalo Bonilla and Bienvenido Garcia, Danielle and Charles Burke, Suzanne Cartledge and Andrew Nichols, Aileen and Ryan Ferrone, Marguerite Hill and Charles Balanoff, Virginia and Kevin Kelly, April Lanni and James Morelli, Carol McGeehan and Stephen Grubaugh, Laura and Vincent Nichols, Elaina and William O'Neil, and Stefanie and Christopher Porrazzo.
Many other couples expressed interest, Bishop O'Connell said, but were unable to attend the ceremony that day.
"I know of at least four couples who were inspired by this but could not make that date so had their own priest witness their marriage vows to make them valid in the Church," Bishop O'Connell said.
He added, "This is important so that in most cases their marriage can become sacramental and so that their status in the Church can be restored and they can come back to receiving Holy Communion."
In his homily, Bishop O'Connell used the gospel of Luke's account of the wedding feast in Cana to talk about change.
"Jesus changed the water into wine. He changed the ordinary into the extraordinary. He changed the profane into the sacred. He changed something everyone can have into something only God can give," he said.
He told the couples, "Here tonight, God becomes part of your relationship in a new way with his abundant grace because you are inviting him in to a closer relationship."
The couples prepared for the ceremony with their own parish priests. Many brought their families to witness the ceremony.
April Lanni and James Morelli saw the event advertised in their church's bulletin and were one of the first couples to sign up.
"That was the most beautiful ceremony. I couldn't even have envisioned what it was going to be like, and that blew me away," Lanni said afterwards.
Elaina O'Neil, who has attended St. Anthony's her entire life and teaches Sunday school there, had been unable to marry her husband William O'Neil in the Church until her previous marriage was annulled.
"My grandparents and my parents got married here, so this is really special for me to be married here. I can't even tell you how happy I am," she told The Pilot.