Catholic Vancouver Sept. 4, 2017

Sixty-four individuals to say 'I do' in one massive ceremony

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

(Nathan Walker / Unsplash)

VANCOUVER—Vicky Monroy has been dreaming of saying her wedding vows to her husband, Luis Robayo, in a Catholic church for the last 29 years. Now, her dream is finally coming true.

Monroy and Robayo are one of 32 couples – that’s a whopping 64 brides and grooms – who will have their marriages blessed in a one big, joyous ceremony at St. Clare of Assisi Parish Sept. 16.

“I wanted all my life with my husband to be married in a Catholic way,” said Monroy.

She met and fell in love with Robayo in Colombia. During their relationship, Robayo moved to Montreal to get a masters’ degree and it was from there that he phoned Monroy in Colombia and told her he wanted to marry her.

Monroy wanted to get married too, but Robayo didn’t have the time nor the money to fly to Colombia, marry Monroy, and buy two tickets back to Canada. Then, there was Monroy’s mother, who refused to let her daughter fly across the globe without a serious commitment from her future son-in-law.

So, the pair married by proxy: Robayo signed civil marriage papers in the Colombian consulate in Montreal and they were mailed to Colombia, where Monroy signed and became legally married to him. Their family and friends held a big celebration in Colombia with everyone but the groom. Four days later, Monroy was on a plane to Canada.

“We started our life together,” she said. “It has been a journey. It has been a beautiful life, with difficulties and with hard times.”

Now in their 50s, the Catholic pair is looking forward to finally getting married in the Church. “I want this special blessing. I feel it is very important for me,” said Monroy.

It will be the second time the Archdiocese of Vancouver will host a mass Church wedding for civilly married couples. The first, held in 2016, was considered the largest wedding in archdiocesan history as 15 couples said “I do” at St. Mary’s.

This year’s event, with double the number of couples, is setting new records.

We’re actually just barely scratching the surface.
Deacon Greg Barcelon

“We’re actually just barely scratching the surface,” said organizer Deacon Greg Barcelon, who is eager for all civilly married Catholics to exchange their vows in a church.

He said time and money are the most common reasons these 64 brides and grooms didn’t get married in the Church in the first place. Some lived in different countries and needed civil marriage papers to be re-united or sponsored as immigrants. Others couldn't afford to.

“Now that we opened this possibility, they realize this is a good opportunity,” he said.

The Sept. 16 event will, in fact, follow all the rituals of a normal Catholic wedding.

“We call it ‘blessing the marriage,’ or we call it ‘convalidation,’ but it is actually a full marriage ceremony,” said Deacon Barcelon. “They are getting married, though we cannot say ‘for the first time,’ because their documentation with the civil authorities is still their marriage certificate.”

The wedding is a logistical challenge for Deacon Barcelon, who is working hard to figure out how to have 64 individuals, plus witnesses, deacons, and priests stand before the congregation without stepping on each other’s toes.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver was inspired to hold this initiative after Pope Francis celebrated a mass wedding for 20 couples in Rome in 2014.