Bishop Stika presides as 51 couples renew their wedding vows

Husbands, wives share colorful stories at Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Mass

By Bill Brewer

David and Martha Yoro can stand out in a crowd.

At least they did on Oct. 13 when they renewed their wedding vows during the Diocese of Knoxville’s annual marriage Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard F. Stika.

The Yoros, members of Holy Cross Church in Pigeon Forge, were joined by 51 other couples from around the diocese for the annual Mass in which couples reaffirm their vows.

Not only did the Yoros celebrate their 61-year marriage, they also celebrated the unique way they’ve lovingly shared each other’s lifestyles and traditions.

Sitting in the front of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mr. and Mrs. Yoro were wearing kukui nut and seashell leis, which in Mr. Yoro’s native Hawaii are worn to symbolize happy events. The leis accessorized the matching Hawaiian tops the Yoros were decked out in to mark the occasion.

David and Martha Yoro show off their Hawaiian heritage after the marriage Mass Oct. 13.

Renewing their vows after six decades has been a fascinating journey for the Yoros, who have three children and grandchildren. Two of the children still live in Hawaii and one child now lives in East Tennessee.

After their marriage and a short stint in Gatlinburg, Knoxville native Martha Yoro joined her husband on the island of Oahu, where they lived, worked, and raised a family for 48 years. They met in 1954 when he was in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany and she was in Germany with her family while her stepfather served in the U.S. Navy.

“David played football for the U.S. Army team. We met on the football field in 1954, and we got married in 1957,” she said, explaining that she was Southern Baptist and he was Catholic.

Among the many words the Yoros can use to describe their six-decade marriage, adjustment is top of mind.

Mrs. Yoro, 79, said relocating from East Tennessee to Hawaii as a young woman was an experience she won’t forget. Likewise, re-relocating from the Hawaiian Islands back to Sevier County has been an interesting experience for Mr. Yoro, who is of Filipino descent.

While living in Hawaii, the Yoros made it back to East Tennessee for only three vacations. In deciding to move back, Mrs. Yoro said “the mountains called me.”

“It was an adjustment, but I loved it,” Mrs. Yoro said of moving to Oahu in the 1950s. And about her husband now being an East Tennessean, “he loves it. He loves the change of seasons,” she added.

Mr. Yoro, 83, noted that his time in the Army prepared him for living in different locations.

“I know we can always go back to Hawaii, but I enjoy living my wife’s lifestyle. It’s a slower lifestyle, not fast-paced. It’s laid back. Hawaii is hustle and bustle,” he said, noting that Sevier County is very retiree-friendly because it caters to seniors and veterans and the cost of living is so reasonable.

The Yoros, who are retired from the Hawaiian Telephone Co., haven’t been back to the islands since 2012. That’s not to say they won’t ever return.

For now, they enjoy having their children and grandchildren visit them in Pigeon Forge. It’s another testament to their shared outlook toward marriage.

Mr. Yoro speaks with joy and appreciation for how his wife joined the Catholic Church after they first exchanged wedding vows at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waipahu, Hawaii, in 1957.

In describing the secret to their happiness after 61 years of marriage, Mr. Yoro harkens back to his football-playing days.

“I guess you would call it teamwork. The trick is to do things together. We enjoy doing things together,” he said, pointing to their travels. “Home is where you make it. Home is wherever you live.”

Bishop Stika reminded all the couples that the first miracle Jesus performed was at a marriage, when he transformed water into wine during the Wedding at Cana.

“As we gather together to celebrate this Mass, we give thanks for this beautiful and wonderful sacrament on this day that God has given to us,” Bishop Stika said.

In his homily, Bishop Stika praised the couples for their witness in serving God and the statement of faith they have made through their marriages.

“You are the ones who celebrate daily, moment to moment, the sacrament of marriage,” the bishop said.

“You are the ones who celebrate moment to moment to moment the sacrament of marriage. So you give witness to a world that in some ways needs this witness. We give witness by the example of how we lead our lives.”

Bishop Stika spoke of the practice of commitment and how it is increasingly rare in a secular society, citing as an example a couple he knew who had been married 75 years and told him how they had to elope to get married because the wife’s father said the marriage would never work.

“Commitment, in this day and age when so many marriages end in divorce and so many people move from here to there. The commitment of a job, the commitment of a relationship, the commitment of our faith in Jesus. Sometimes it’s lost, but then we recapture it when we open our eyes and there is Jesus. We are reminded of ‘until death do us part,’” the bishop said.

He said witnessing a marriage, witnessing a commitment before God, is one of the great privileges priests and deacons have, pointing out that marriages in the Church offer a level of commitment unlike weddings outside the faith community.

“I want to thank you for your witness, for your love, for your belief in the sacrament of marriage,” he said, acknowledging the challenges of staying married over a long period of time.

Bishop Stika encouraged the couples to hold hands as they reaffirmed their vows and together prayed:

“Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your blessings to us. We thank you for all things that have enriched our lives, for all people who have blessed us with their love and friendship. We thank you for our marriage, for our homes and families and friends. Give us, O Lord, this further blessing, that as we have freely received, so we may freely give. Confirm and strengthen our marriages that our homes may be to us, and to friends and strangers, a place of joy and gladness. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Marian Christiana, diocesan coordinator of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment, echoed Bishop Stika in saying the annual marriage Mass is an affirmation of Jesus’ important teachings on vocations and the family.

Mrs. Christiana typically plans marriage Masses for each of the diocese’s four deaneries. But the cathedral, in its first year, served as a beautiful setting for this year’s Mass as Bishop Stika has been encouraging as many people as possible throughout the diocese to visit the mother church, she said.

“It was very uplifting to see so many couples come from around the diocese to the cathedral to celebrate the sacrament of marriage and to share that experience with their families. We had 12 couples celebrating 50 or more years of marriage. Their steadfast commitment should serve as an inspiration to all married couples throughout the diocese,” Mrs. Christiana said.

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