When Victor and Esther Jacinto married mid-way through their university studies at age 20, their family members didn’t think it would last.

It seems they’ve been proved wrong. The Jacintos celebrated 45 years of marriage with 153 other couples celebrating milestone anniversaries at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond May 12.

“When we were married, I don’t know if my parents were happy or sad. They felt we were too young. They felt we weren’t ready for such a responsibility,” said Esther.

The pair first met in high school but became best friends during their university years. They married in Manila’s St. Pancratius Church, a small Catholic chapel in an elaborate garden well known for celebrity weddings.

They went on to finish their degrees, have three children, move to Canada, fight cancer, volunteer in various Catholic associations, and retire at age 65.

“I was thinking back and, you know what, probably it would not have worked if it wasn’t blessed,” said Esther. “It was blessed by God. That’s the only reason I can find. There are so many marriages that don’t last, but ours did, in spite of whatever growing pains we had.”

It was an emotional moment for Esther to be surrounded by all the couples renewing their vows at St. Paul’s. “It was something you really can’t put in words. You can’t explain it. It was like we were getting married again.”

Victor was awed by other couples married even longer than they were; the couple married the longest at St. Paul’s that day made their first vows more than 70 years ago. “Looking at the older couples, married 60 years and above, I thought: ‘We can do that too.’”

Victor Jacinto (front row, second from left) and his wife Esther (in red) with Archbishop Miller and some of the other couples celebrating 45 years of marriage. (Emmanuel Abuel photo)
Victor and Esther at their home in Richmond. (Agnieszka Ruck photo)

Daniela and Seamus O’Brien, married five years, said they have found faith helps to keep their relationship strong.

“We weren’t practising (the faith) when we first met, but both of us came from Catholic backgrounds,” said Seamus. He met Daniela by chance while kicking a soccer ball with his younger brother outdoors. Seamus got her phone number, and they dated for more than a year until deciding they wanted to make a lifetime commitment.

“When we got engaged, we were faced with the question: ‘If we’re going to get married in the Church, why?’ We were engaged for two years because it took us a long time to realize we’re really serious about our faith.”

The O’Briens say friendships with priests and married couples have helped them get through the challenges of early married life and raising three young children.

“We can’t do this alone. We rely on the grace of the sacrament of marriage constantly, and we are in awe of all those couples who have been relying on it endlessly, making it to 50+ years, and what that legacy leaves for the world,” said Daniela.

She hopes to also carry on the legacy of commitment, love, and hope in God in their marriage, and to pass it on to their children.

“We celebrate our anniversaries as a couple, but to celebrate it as a Catholic community, this is what we’re about,” added Seamus.

Daniela and Seamus O'Brien (left), with their youngest child, Archbishop Miller, and other couples celebrating five years of marriage. (Emmanuel Abuel photo)

It was the second Marriage Anniversary Mass hosted in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. The event recognizes couples married 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, or 60 years or more.

“We are giving thanks to the good Lord for thousands of years of holy matrimony faithfully lived by you,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, told the crowd at St. Paul’s that day.

“You, dear friends, bear witness to the joyful, sacrificial, faithful love that the sacramental grace of the sacrament has made possible.”

He thanked them for taking the “gamble” of getting married: “When you committed yourself exclusively and definitively to your spouse, you took a risk,” he said. “That gamble paid off.”

Archbishop Miller also mentioned a new program that is rolling out in the archdiocese aimed at pairing engaged couples with mentors married at least five years.

“I urge you, as a small way of giving thanks for your marriage and family, to think seriously about accompanying a couple whose journey is just beginning. They could learn so much from your experience. You have a lot to give!”

For more photos and a recap video of the event, click here.