Today would have been my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary. They celebrated nearly 53 years together before they passed away (Mom in 2000, Dad in 2005). They were married in my mother’s church: S.S. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Duquesne, PA. My father, a Roman Catholic and belonged to Holy Trinity (first in Duquesne, now in West Mifflin, PA). It wasn’t a simple “let’s go and get married”—because while both were “catholic” churches—there are differences (role of the Pope, language used during the church services, liturgical rituals, and treatment of doctrine). I’m not going to even attempt to explain them in this post. You can read more here. For an even more detailed explanation, see “What are the Differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?” by Father Michael Azkoul.
In order for mother and father to get married they had to obtain permission to marry in her church; my father’s priest had to approve. My mother told me she was afraid that the priest might not approve the marriage because he was old-fashioned in his beliefs and practices, but the approval was granted, with the understanding that after that day, my mother would follow her husband to the Roman Catholic Church, and when I came along I was baptized and raised Roman Catholic.
While growing up, I heard the terms “Greek Catholic” and “Roman Catholic” but to be honest there was never much of a focus on the differences. It wasn’t until I became interested in genealogy that I ever really paid much attention. Genealogists often consult church records for details about their ancestors, and as I did my research I uncovered some interesting information about my ancestors and the role religion played in their lives.
During my genealogical research, I also learned that my father’s parents experienced a similar situation with their marriage in 1915. They were also married in S.S. Peter and Paul Church. My grandmother, Elizabeth was also baptized Greek Catholic, but then followed my grandfather, John (Jan) to the Roman Catholic church, and their children were all raised in the Roman Catholic faith.
As I mentioned, my mother was baptized Greek Catholic; however her parents eventually left SS. Peter and Paul and joined St. Nicholas, the Russian Orthodox Church in Duquesne. While faith remained a large part of my grandmother’s life, my grandfather had some issues with church in general and eventually stopped attending, but that’s another story for a different post.
In remembering my parents today on their 64th anniversary, I reflect not so much on the differences between their two faiths, but rather on how their union was built on faith in God, love, mutual respect, and the commitment to teach their daughter by example.