Tita and David Gorney of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Folkston celebrated their 25th anniversary at the annual Gold and Silver Jubilee Mass Feb. 10 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah. Photographs by Jessica L. Marsala.

Marriage, Gold and Silver anniversaries celebrated at annual Mass

Originally Appeared in : 9904-2/14/19

Approximately 100 couples celebrated their 25th or 50th wedding anniversaries by attending an annual jubilee Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah Feb. 10. The Mass was held on World Marriage Day, which is celebrated on the second Sunday in February each year. 


When reflecting on the components of a successful marriage, many couples suggested that a shared religion isn’t necessarily one of them, as long as both partners have faith, prayer and a belief in God in common. 


As silver jubilarians Krista Dillard and Tita Gorney and golden jubilarians Betty Gotsch and Donna Nolan will tell you, they didn’t share the same religion as their husbands on their wedding days.


Gotsch says she received the encouragement she needed to start the RCIA process—10 years into her marriage—while attending the funeral of a close friend and teacher at the Baptist church she had attended while growing up.


“…And I can remember the pastor saying that it does not matter whether you are Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or just that you have some faith,” Gotsch, who now worships with her husband at St. Teresa Church in Albany, said. “That just tore me up.” 


After receiving approval from her mother posthumously—by way of a phone call with her cousin who recounted an earlier conversation with a friend of Gotsch’s mother—mere hours before receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, Gotsch said that she knew “everything was O.K.” 


Though her family had some initial misgivings when she decided to marry a Catholic, Gotsch realized that more than anything, her mother just wanted her and her husband to be happy.


Like Betty and Doug, Krista and her husband Stephen, Tita and her husband David, and Donna and her husband David all believe that marriages require a lot of give and take.


Tita Gorney noted, “You have to be able to get that balance. Some days he gets on my nerves, that means I have to give a 110 [percent] or I get on his nerves and he’s got to give me a little more. If you don’t compromise, and you don’t believe in each other, it’s not going to work; it’s just not going to work. You gotta have your faith, your love, your grace, definitely a lot of patience…compromise.”


In a similar way, the Nolans and Dillards both acknowledge the importance of not only taking time to be together as a couple but also giving their spouses time and space to be alone. 


 “Dave does his thing: He does a lot of volunteer [work], taking care of a lot of people and stuff like that. I’m a nurse, so I still volunteer at a charity clinic,” Donna said. The Nolans were the third couple to be married at the current location of St. John the Evangelist Church in Valdosta, and though Donna did not formally convert until approximately the late 1990s, then-pastor Father John O’Brien always assumed that she was Catholic all along because she frequently attended Mass with David and volunteered at the church and school. “So I get to do some things that I enjoy, and I’ve been trained to do and keeps my braining working, and that sort of thing. And he can do his thing. So not only are we together, but we can be apart and still be okay.”


Without such respect for each other’s individuality, Stephen Dillard, the 30th chief judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia, believes that there is a risk that couples may become too possessive.


“We’ve seen a couple struggle with that word, where they can be too possessive of each other: ‘I don’t want you going out with your girlfriends and going out to eat.’ Dillard said. He and Krista are parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Macon. Dillard converted to the Catholic faith two years before his wife, Krista, when they were living in South Bend, Indiana, and he was clerking for a federal judge, who is also Catholic. “And we just don’t have that. We don’t have those issues because we trust each other.”


The Dillards, Gorneys and Gotsches also made a point to mention the importance of humor in marriage.


“I think that it sounds silly, but I would be with someone who makes you laugh. You know, life’s tough. And having somebody that you enjoy being around that you think is funny, that makes you laugh,” Stephen Dillard said. “I just think that those are the key things to me: communicate faith, communication and just enjoying being with each other and being able to be in a room sometimes and talk until two in the morning and then also being in a room sometimes and saying nothing and just being with each other, I think that’s important as well.” 


“He’s the one that keeps me grounded, because I can be just, kind of off the tracks sometimes, and he’s just pull me back in and keep me grounded and help me make sure I’m going in the right direction,” Tita Gorney said of her husband David. The Gorneys are parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Folkston. As an example she mentioned how her husband would cheer her up when she came home stressed or upset from her last job as a school bus driver.


Prior to this Tita said that she worked as the first female truck driver in the produce warehouse David supervised in Jacksonville, Florida.


“Now she’s my boss,” David Gorney said, eliciting a laugh from his wife, who jokingly added “that was the plan.”


See more photos on our Smugmug Gallery.

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