Love and faith: foundation of strong marriages

Couples reflect for St. Valentine’s Day
By: Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant

DUBUQUE —In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul said, “love is patient, love is kind.” The verse is popular at weddings and chosen by many brides and grooms to be read at their ceremony. It’s a fitting selection, too, since it does, in fact, take a lot of patience and a great deal of kindness to make a marriage work. As important as those virtues are, though, many couples find a successful marriage also takes something more, namely, the support of their faith. This Valentine’s Day, The Witness shares the stories of three couples from the Archdiocese of Dubuque that look to faith to strengthen their relationship and provide meaning to married life.

Don and Jeananne Freymann were married five days before Thanksgiving in November of 1962. Today, more than 53 years, eight children and 15 grandchildren later, the two are grateful for the life they’ve shared and are happily enjoying their retirement years together. For the Freymanns, members of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Dubuque, the key to their long and successful relationship has been their common Catholic faith.

“Our faith has been the center of our marriage from the outset and has been paramount in all our family decisions for educating our children,” Don said. His and Jeananne’s eight children attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through college.

Don continued, “Our faith also influences most aspects of our daily life.” He and Jeananne attend Mass together regularly, pray at meals together and say the rosary with each other while traveling. The two also participate in Bible studies and prayer groups and renewal activities such as CEW. “Our thinking is that faith, like life, is not jut a theory – it has to be lived and actively nurtured and mentored,” he said.

Their faith also helps the Freymanns when they face difficult life circumstances, such as when one of their daughters experienced a severe brain injury following a bike accident eight years ago. Together, the couple turned to prayer for strength and for healing for their daughter. She endured a long, difficult recovery but survived the accident, which her parents credit to the power of prayer. “We believe in miracles,” Don said.

Don has a few pieces of advice for couples that are just beginning their married lives together. “Physically and emotionally, our intimacy can be enhanced by using prayer together,” he said. “‘Couples who pray together, stay together’ is an old axiom, but very effective.”

With the wisdom gained after more than half of a century of marriage under his belt, Don also added, “Don’t put God on a shelf and use God in case of an emergency. Take the trip with God. The trip is entirely different and more exciting and productive.”

One couple that has God very much off the shelf and is taking him along for their marriage adventure is Stephanie and Kyle Klapatauskas of Dubuque. The Klapatauskases, both in their early 30s, will celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary this July. Kyle is an academic success and retention coordinator at Loras College, while Stephanie coordinates the religious education program at St. Anthony Parish. The two have their hands full as the parents of four rambunctious boys, ages 8, 6, 4 and 1 1/2 years.

“The Catholic faith plays a tremendous role in our marriage,” Stephanie shared. “It guides and informs the decisions that we make, both big and small, and how we live our daily lives. Whether it’s how we decide to make purchases, trying to live a bit more simply, treating each other and others with respect and compassion, or recognizing the need for humility, it’s shaped who we are today and is the foundation of our marriage and our parenting.”

Stephanie said, “God gives us the strength and grace we need to make it through the hard times, to support and love each other, to say we’re sorry (to each other, to our children and to others) and to serve each other – through serving each other we’re better able to serve our children and others.”

The couple goes to church and prayers together regularly and periodically speaks at Pre-Cana classes and other retreats. “We try to take opportunities to grow together in our faith,” Stephanie said. “We also support and encourage each other to grow individually – such as spiritual reading, service, etc. When one of us grows we both grow.”

While she acknowledged that sometimes it can be hard to keep life’s priorities in the proper order, Stephanie encouraged newly married couples to “always put God first.” To these couples, she also said, “Marriage is wonderful, but at times it can be very difficult. Don’t give up on each other! Work through the difficult times together and ask God to help you through it too. It is work, but the end result is amazing.”

A newlywed couple already following this advice in their young marriage is Andrea and Collins Eboh, who exchanged vows on Jan. 1 of this year. The couple dated for a little more than three years before their New Year’s Day wedding. Andrea is the product development coordinator for the life sciences division at McGraw-Hill Companies in Dubuque; Collins is the fitness and programming director at the community center in nearby Peosta. Andrea has two sons, Joseph, 12, and Joshua, 10, from a previous marriage.

“As a divorced Catholic who went through an annulment, my faith and parish community have been very important in helping me through some difficult periods,” Andrea said. She’s been a parishioner of St. Columbkille Parish in Dubuque for the past eight years, having joined the faith community after finding herself new to town and a newly single mom with two young children.

“When I started dating again, I knew I wanted to be with a man who would be willing to make faith a priority too,” reflected Andrea. “Fortunately, Collins comes from a family with a deep faith, and he was always very willing to go to Mass with us – even though he isn’t Catholic – and help me incorporate it with the boys in our home life. He recognized that it was important to me, and he was always very supportive.”

Andrea said that Collins has been open to learning more about the Catholic faith and, after having gone with her and the boys to Mass for more than two years, is planning on joining the church in the near future.

Collins and Andrea pray together often and have discussions about what living a Christian life means for their family and for their relationships with others. “This has been a good touchstone as we brought our two families together, planned our wedding, and now focus on our future goals and priorities together,” Andrea said.

The Ebohs plan to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife by going to dinner and a show. They’ll use a gift card they got for their wedding just six weeks ago. Stephanie Klapatauskas confided that she and Kyle will probably surprise each other with some small gift on Feb. 14 but wouldn’t divulge what she was getting him this year, since it would, of course, ruin the surprise. Don Freymann said that he and Jeananne have a date with some of their grandchildren for Valentine’s Day 2016; they will be out of town babysitting over the holiday weekend, together.

(Photo courtesy of Gary Olsen Photography)

 

Christian roots for St. Valentine’s Day
Ancient saint’s life is basis for celebration
By: Dan Russo
Witness Editor

Although Valentine’s Day is mostly perceived as a secular holiday associated with romance and the sale of chocolates, flowers and other consumer goods, it actually has Catholic roots.

Feb. 14 was at one time officially recognized on the church calender as the feast day of St. Valentine, a figure shrouded in mystery.

The church officially recognizes three saints named Valentine. All three were  martyrs  — two in Italy and one in Africa. The Valentine most commonly associated with the feast day is believed to have died in 269 A.D. and was buried north of the city of Rome.

In 1969, the church removed St. Valentine from the general Roman calender because so little is known about him, but he is still recognized as a saint.

The Nuremberg Chronicle, printed in  1493, is a history of Chrisitianity which is believed to contain one of the earliest written references to St. Valentine. According to one account, he  was a Roman priest martyred during the Roman Emporer Claudius’ reign. One story claims that St. Valentine was imprisoned and killed for marrying Christian couples against the emporer’s wishes and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Before St. Valentine’s Feast Day was the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15 and also was associated with love and marriages. St. Valentine is the patron saint of love, young people and happy marriages.

Sources for this article: The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, American Catholic.org and Catholic Online.

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