WILMINGTON — Since its founding in 1869, St. Paul Church in Wilmington has been the site of many marriages, and after a year’s delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many of those couples gathered at the church to celebrate their unions. The longest-married spouses were wed more than a half-century ago, while the newest couple tied the knot just a week prior.
St. Paul’s was the first parish established after the Diocese of Wilmington was formed in 1868. The first marriage was performed on May 26, 1870, and there were plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of that event last year. But 2020 was filled with cancellations, including the Mass at St. Paul’s. The delay allowed Gerardo and Maria Elena Placencia to be a part of the Mass.
“Just to be here is a blessing,” Maria said. “As a matter of fact, I still can’t believe it. If I was going to get married, it was going to be in a special place.”
Bishop Malooly, the principal celebrant along with Fathers John Olson and Anthony Pileggi, noted the Placencias’ presence at the Mass after just one week of marriage.
“They’re not taking any chances,” he joked.
A few dozen couples, along with a few widows and widowers, participated in the Mass. Each processed into the church holding a certificate with their names and the date of their marriage. Those weddings, Bishop Malooly said at the outset, have sustained the parish over the years. He said it was important to ask God “to continue to bless the relationship that you have.”
The Mass was celebrated primarily in Spanish, with Father Olson, the administrator, proclaiming the Gospel in Spanish. Bishop Malooly noted that this was his first visit to St. Paul since he appointed Father Olson to the post after the departure of the Franciscan priests who staffed the parish for nearly 30 years.
During his homily, the bishop said that in the Gospel, Mark talked about relationships, “and by extension, marriage.” Jesus’ presence brings stabilization to our lives, he said. Marriage, he continued, is like a ride in a boat. It can be smooth, but at times, the waters get rough, and the boat rocks perilously.
“We need Jesus in that board with us,” he said.
The Mass included Bishop Malooly saying a prayer for the couples after the petitions. Afterward, he remained at the church to take photos with the men and women.
All photos by Mike Lang.