Amid heavy downpour on 19th December 2015,a Catholic Church in the Philippine St Alphonsus Mary de Ligouri conducted a mass wedding for thirteen beautifully dressed couples who had been living together for a longtime now and could not afford a wedding to bless their marriages. Wedding “godparents" from the Church’s wealthy neighborhood took care of the couple’s outfits and other costs.
Monsignor Claro “Matt" Garcia, parish priest of St Alphonsus, told Catholic News Service the couples came from the ranks of personal drivers, cooks and gardeners. He said the 13 couples had been together “without the sacrament of matrimony."
The ceremony was complete with the traditional symbols of a veil enveloping the couple, a lasso tying them together and a coin purse being passed from groom to bride, all signifying the couple being together through the different aspects of married life.
Wedding in the church ordinarily costs $575 per wedding,but the church handled everything including a reception at the parish hall.
“I told the Family and Life Ministry, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mass wedding for the poor?’" Monsignor Garcia said.
A house wife and a mother of three children,Lei Bihag, and her husband Vincent Bihag, a cook,expressed their sincere gratitude and Lei said she was excited to be walking down the aisle with her long-time partner. They had been living together for 9 years before they got civilly married in 2013.
According to CNS,Lei said “It’s different when there is a blessing in the church, with a priest". “It’s a more blessed wedding, and the marriage receives a blessing, not just the wedding, but the marriage itself."
The mass wedding was supposed to take place on December 6, but the priest said many of the couples did not have their papers in order.
“Some of them had not been baptized. So I had to baptize them first," he said. “And most of them were not confirmed. Since I have the faculty to confirm, they took the sacrament of confirmation … So it (was) three sacraments in one day."
Abegail Jimenez one of the couples said her baptismal records at her home parish had the wrong name on them, and so she had to be baptized again before her wedding. The couple had been living together for 3 years before they had a civil wedding last year.Her husband Jay who does maintenance in the church said they quickly took the chance to participate in the mass wedding when they heard about it.
“It was a huge help because we have four children," Jay Jimenez told CNS. “Of course we can’t afford this kind of expense because of our small salaries … and it’s better because it’s a marriage before God. With the judge, it was just before people."