Here are some of the features from the November 2014 issue of Long Island Catholic Magazine. To subscribe click here.
50 years of unconditional love
By Rick Hinshaw
Deacon Joseph Marfoglio laughs with characteristic humor when he says, “I can declare our marriage a miracle.” But it does seem that he and his wife Patricia — among the honorees at the diocesan Golden Weddings celebration September 21 at Christ the King Church in Commack — do indeed have a marriage made in heaven.
Parishioners growing up at Maria Regina Parish in Seaford, they were married there on September 27, 1964 when both were 20 — “my father had to sign for me” to allow the wedding to take place, Joe recalls. They’ve lived almost all of their 50 years of marriage in the house they were able to purchase just two years later in Islip Terrace. They raised four daughters there — “all of them good Christian women,” Joe says — and now have 10 grandchildren.
“At the diocesan celebration, all our children and grandchildren were there,” Joe said. “I was so proud of that.”
Retired now, Joe maintains an active schedule as an ordained deacon serving at Christ the King Parish, while Pat, continuing a lifelong tradition of service to the Church, is director of music ministry at St. Patrick Parish in Bay Shore.
“It seems like we’ve always been married, always had kids,” Joe said. “And I’d do it all over again.”
Pat readily agrees. “From the time we met,” attending novenas at Maria Regina, she said, “there just seems to have been a spiritual bond between us. Maybe we didn’t even realize it at the time,” she reflected, “but that’s the foundation of our marriage.”
As such, the story of their truly “golden wedding” could serve as a model for couples just beginning to build a Catholic marriage, or even those who, in today’s modern culture, question the value of marriage. But if so, Pat and Joe emphasize, it has to be understood that even a seemingly storybook marriage like theirs doesn’t just happen.
“It wasn’t always a joy ride,” Joe said. For one thing, “we’re polar opposites personality-wise,” with Pat being more of an extrovert and him more of an introvert. “She has really helped me grow.”
Financially, too — as in most marriages — there have been challenges.
Love conquers all
“Joe worked three and four jobs sometimes,” Pat said, as she stayed home raising the children, having left her job with a law office after becoming pregnant during their first year of marriage.
“But we always considered ourselves blessed, even in the tough times,” she added.
“I used to tell her we’re never going to be rich, but God will provide,” Joe said. “Money wasn’t important. I think that’s why our kids are that way. Not one of them,” he said, “values ‘stuff’” inordinately.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Joe observed. “But we love each other. Love does conquer all.
“That’s the key,” he added. “When I preach at weddings, I always emphasize unconditional love. If you don’t love each other unconditionally, marriage will not work.”
That was also the key to raising their daughters, he and Pat said. There were challenges, of course — curfews and other rules that had to be set, Joe recalled. “But we loved them. We would say, ‘We love you, but these are the rules you have to live by.’ But there was never a sense of not being loved.”
“I think we mirrored a lot of love in the house,” he said, and also “in how we dealt with people, how we speak to people.” As a result, Pat said, the children “reflect us” in their love for each other and now for their own families.
God at center of marriage
Along with unconditional love for each other, Pat and Joe emphasize, a lasting marriage must be centered in God’s love.
“Marriage is between three people,” Joe said: “the bride, the groom, and God. If you want a marriage to work, then God has to be there.”
“And it has to be as a couple,” Pat added. When she sits with a couple planning the music for their wedding ceremony, she said, it is often the bride who is doing most of the planning. “I’ll always ask the groom what he wants as well,” she said. “That has to be the priority, the couple and God.”
“It’s not just about going to church,” Joe said. “It’s about how you lead your life. It all ties in to unconditional love.”
For Joe and Pat, having God at the center of their marriage has meant being involved in Church ministry together — “she longer than I have,” Joe said.
For Pat, it goes back to the example her parents set. She recalls her father being instrumental in helping with the building of Maria Regina church after the parish was established in1955. Her father was always active in the parish Holy Name Society, her mother in the Rosary Society, she said.
“The apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” Joe observed. “She was inspired to be involved in ministry because she saw her parents’ example.”
Similarly, they believe their own involvements have helped shape the strong faith their own daughters have.
“You can see it in the way they raise their children,” Joe said.
Church involvement gave example to children
“Our circle of friends is all church people,” he said. “The kids saw that” as they were growing up.
“We’ve been part of Teams of Our Lady since 1976,” Pat said. “So they saw what that is about, an example of a small church community that really becomes a family. They saw that, it was another example of how to live in the world and have Christian values.”
“We never said, this is what you have to do,” Joe added. “We said, this is our faith” and tried to give good example.
“One thing I was always concerned about,” Pat said, was the time they devoted to ministries — particularly the youth ministry program, which they started and directed for many years at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Islip Terrace.
“Youth Ministry can take up 24/7 of your time,” she said. And it sometimes involved trying to help a troubled young person, which was even more demanding, Joe added.
“That was the only thing I was concerned about, that it not take away from our own kids,” Pat said. “That always bothered me, but it didn’t seem to bother them.”
That’s in part, Joe suggested, because their own children always came first, from Pat being home with them during their formative years, to such things as family vacations.
“We always went away on vacation together,” said Joe.
“Still do!” Pat added. “Once a year we go away as a family.”
Their daughters were also “integrated into” their youth ministry work, Joe said. “They got to know the kids” in the youth group, and that ministry was special, for them, for their children, and for many of the young people who were part of it.
“We are godparents for some of their children today,” Joe said. “They tell us about the effect we had in their lives.” One former member, John Panzica, was ordained a deacon two years ago, and now serves at St. Gerard Majella Parish in Port Jefferson Station.
A blessed life
Among their first ministries at St. Peter’s was teaching religious education to third-graders, including — “little did we know it at the time,” Joe said — “our future son-in-law.” Joe went on to teach eighth grade while Pat became a coordinator of the parish religious education program. She then took a part-time job at St. John Nepomucene, where she worked for nine years, first with youth ministry, then directing the junior high school Confirmation preparation program.
“The pastor at St. Peter’s allowed me to come on as music director there, and I was doing that for 26 years” before coming to St. Patrick eight years ago. Pat has also served on the diocesan liturgy committee since 1982.
For years, Joe said, people seeing all of his and Pat’s involvement in the Church would ask him if he was a deacon. “At that time the answer was no,” he said, “but now it’s where I should be.
“You don’t always get to see at the end of the race how it’s going to turn out. But there are no accidents,” he said, quoting from a book he read by Wayne Dyer, I Can See Clearly Now. “All the things we’ve been involved in, everything we’ve been called to” were God’s preparations, he said, for “what we’re doing today.”
“We’ve really led a blessed life,” Joe said. “You don’t look at it that way at the time, but we do now. All the things that have happened in our lives, now we say we were destined to be where we are now.”
And “after 50 years, we’re still in love.”
by Msgr. James M. McNamara
Stand up for your faith
The power of God’s love is greater than the power of evil. The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ triumphed over evil and death over two thousand years ago. And yet it seems that evil is winning in our world today.
We have been witnessing the presence of evil to a degree not seen since the horrors of the Holocaust. Christians, as well as people of other beliefs, have been told to convert or die. Women and children are being kidnapped and sent into slavery, men have been tortured and killed in mass numbers by ISIS. Who can forget the brutal beheading of James Foley and Steven Sotloff? We need to cry out to the God of mercy and compassion as we raise up these Christians in prayer. We need to let our voices be heard in defense of religious liberty, both here at home and in the troubled areas of our earth, especially at the present time in northern Iraq and Syria. Please flood the mailboxes of elected officials in defense of religious liberty and the freedom to profess and practice one’s faith. Do not be naive. Do not presume upon your faith as you go about your busy life. Stand up for your faith. Now is the time to speak and to act.
First, we each might do some hard thinking about the value of our faith and the freedom to profess it. We can easily presume upon our faith. If you attend Mass on Sundays, you might look more deeply into how you witness to your faith by becoming a lector or an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. If you do not participate in Mass on Sundays, now is the time to start and to make a priority of praising God on Sundays and standing in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world.
Second, we need to find our voice in calling for religious freedom and in calling attention to these atrocities in the Middle East. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Finally, we need to flood the world with good deeds and acts of kindness. A little less preoccupation with sports and more attention to justice for those in need and sharing our blessings would go a long way in making our world a better place. It is a question of priorities as Christians.
May the Lord give you peace.