Faith, prayer strengthen marriage
Enduring wartime separation, the death of a son, health issues and other challenges, William and Evelyn Schulte have relied on faith and prayer throughout their courtship and 70 years of marriage.
As part of celebrating their marriage, the Schultes joined 92 other couples marking milestone anniversaries of 5, 25, 40, 50, 55, 60 and more years Sept. 4 at the annual marriage celebration Mass at St. Mary Church in Norfolk, with Archbishop George J. Lucas presiding.
A similar celebration drew 176 couples Sept. 11 to St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. Both were sponsored by the archdiocese's Center for Family Life Formation.
"Mass with the archbishop was special and I’m glad we were able to go," Evelyn said. Among the longest married this year, they have attended several such celebrations.
Members of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Dodge, the Schultes were married Feb. 12, 1946, at Sacred Heart Church in Olean. But before that, World War II took William away for four years, including two years in the Pacific theater.
"I thought the war would never end," Evelyn said. "But we just trusted in the Lord and we went on. The good Lord helps if you just trust in him."
Faith also was a source of strength for William. "I only missed Mass twice while I was in the service, and those were for legitimate reasons," he said.
Frequent letters also sustained the couple during the war, many of which Evelyn saved.
"The service men really appreciated mail and always liked hearing from home," Evelyn said. "That meant so much to them. You always felt for them because they were sacrificing a lot."
Separation due to military service was a challenge for another couple celebrating their anniversary at the archdiocese’s event in Omaha – Richard and Barbara McMahon, members of St. Patrick Parish in Gretna, who have been married 60 years.
As they planned their wedding, Richard’s assignment in the Air Force was going to prevent him from coming home for their preferred wedding date, so Barbara’s sister, Jane, who was planning her own wedding to Richard Croker, invited them to share a double wedding.
The couples were married Aug. 18, 1956, at St. Joseph Church in York.
And they’ve shared their anniversary celebrations every year since. "We usually have a dinner out," Barbara said, "and we had a big celebration for our 50th anniversary with an open house."
Their anniversary celebration this year was a smaller affair Sept. 10 with friends and family, followed the next day by attending the archdiocese’s marriage celebration in Omaha.
"It’s very nice to go to the cathedral, which is so beautiful, to celebrate with the archbishop," Barbara said. Having attended several celebrations, she said they always enjoy seeing people they know and making new friends.
The Schultes and McMahons share similar stories of long, productive careers, hard work and child rearing, with faith always at the center.
After the war, William Schulte had a 30-year career as a mail carrier while Evelyn was busy at home raising their four sons and one daughter. They now have nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Over the years, William and Evelyn often volunteered in their parish, William serving at weekday Masses, Evelyn bringing Communion to residents of the local nursing home.
And she remains active in their parish, leading the rosary every other Saturday evening.
Joys and Struggles
As with most married couples, the Schultes experienced the joys and struggles of marriage and family life, including health challenges and the death of a son, regularly turning to the Lord in prayer, she said.
The McMahons, who raised one daughter and five sons, also experienced the loss of a child and share a similar commitment to faith and prayer.
"We’ve always had a strong faith ever since we were young," said Barbara. "I don’t know what people would do without it. We pray every day for the strength to meet the challenges."
Following four years in the Air Force, Richard McMahon worked 30 years for Union Pacific, and Barbara, once their children were raised, spent 27 years managing temporary employment agencies. They have 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
As the Schultes reflect on 70 years together, William said, "Marriage is just like a beautiful bouquet of roses, beautiful flowers but some ‘stickers.’ You just overlook them and you work together."
"There are always problems in life and we’ve had a lot of things you don’t expect, but you just go with it and you pray a lot," Evelyn said. "I really believe in prayer, and I can feel that they are being answered."