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Catholic Vancouver April 16, 2018

How prison helps this 60-year marriage stay strong  

By Agnieszka Ruck

Stan and Marilyn Pidsadny, married for 60 years, will celebrate their milestone anniversary with 125 other couples at St. Matthew's May 13. They say their faith and ministry have helped them grow closer and stay together. Registration for the anniversary Mass closes April 24. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—In 60 years of marriage, Marilyn and Stan have found one of the most fulfilling things they’ve ever done together is to go prison.

“It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Stan, who discovered prison ministry while serving Christmas dinner with the Knights of Columbus to young delinquents about 15 years ago.

“It’s really good,” added Marilyn. “God’s mercy is the number one thing in our marriage and in our prison ministry too. It’s very powerful.”

The pair has been volunteering in the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s prison ministry program for 15 years and Circles of Support and Accountability, a community program for released offenders, for the last five. It’s strengthened their marriage and their reliance on God.

“God’s mercy is there for us in our marriage and we take it to the prison,” said Marilyn. “Mind you, they have to ask for it. We also have to ask for God’s mercy. It’s not the idea that we take God’s mercy and give it to you. If you don’t ask for it, you’re not receiving it.”

Stan said a handy skill in prison ministry – and a good marriage – is making the other person feel heard. “That’s what I do,” he said. “Listen.”

Stan and Marilyn will celebrate 60 years of marriage at a special Marriage Anniversary Mass at St. Matthew’s Parish May 13. They will celebrate their commitment that day with at least 125 other local couples marking milestone anniversaries. Registration for the Mass closes April 24.

The pair met in 1956 on a blind date in Vancouver, arranged by one of Marilyn’s close friends. They married two years later at the old St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church; Stan immigrated from Ukraine with his family when he was three years old.

They got very involved in their communities. Stan became an usher and joined the Knights of Columbus; Marilyn joined the Catholic Women’s League and became an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion; both became associates of the Grey Nuns.

They had three sons in three years: Michael, John, Paul. Now, six decades later, they’re still each other’s best friends. “He’s my best friend. I tell him he’s my best friend, even when I’m annoyed,” said Marilyn. “You still can love and be annoyed.”

The Pidsadny pair credits God for giving them the strength to give to their communities, stay Catholic, and remain together. It has been far from easy.

“Some of the things that happened in our lives, if we didn’t have faith, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Stan.

Their son, Michael, was a successful 29-year-old engineer when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “It’s hard on us,” said Stan. “He’s still a young person, but he’s with a whole bunch of people who have dementia.”

Now, 30 years later, Michael’s parents still visit him once or twice a week at his care home and worry about his health. “That’s been the hardest part for me, I think,” said Stan.

But, Marilyn is quick to add, Michael’s resilience inspires them. “The doctor says he has no resentment. He’s not depressed or anything like that. Whereas if I put myself in his place, I can’t imagine.”

Their advice for staying married for 60 years and counting is simple.

“You have to give, you have to have love, and you have to have faith in marriage,” said Marilyn. “If you don’t have one of those, you have problems. We work lots on our faith. We pray together, we go to adoration together, we go to Mass together.”

Stan added that God gives grace, but individuals must learn to act on it.

“Never hold a grudge,” he said. “You have a lot of arguments, and life is not easy. I don’t believe in holding a grudge any more than a couple hours.”

Marilyn and Stan will officially celebrate their 60th anniversary in August.

Registration for the anniversary Mass closes April 24. Click here to register.