By Tony DeGol
When Jeff and Tammy Hollen got married 41 years ago, their priest gave them some good advice: keep God at the center of the marriage.
It was a suggestion they follow to this day.
“God is first in our marriage, family, and everything we do,” stressed Jeff.
Granted, married life is not always a picnic.
“God helps me with that, big time,” Jeff said with a chuckle.
Tammy agreed, also with a laugh.
“We pray together every day, so that helps,” she noted. “When there are challenges, we may not always agree on everything, but we try to figure out everything.”
If you keep God as the focus, it really helps, Jeff added.
Their family includes three children and five grandchildren.
Members of Saint Augustine Parish in Dysart, Jeff and Tammy were among a slew of husbands and wives who flocked to the annual outdoor Mass for married couples on July 16 at the Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine in Loretto.
Sponsored by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Family Life Office, the liturgy is just one example of the diocese’s ongoing efforts to support marriage and family.
Bishop Mark celebrated the Mass and offered a special homily message.
He noted that day’s Gospel in which Jesus tells us that we need to listen, and the Bishop urged the faithful to allow the Word of God to sink into their hearts and minds every day.
“All of you married couples who come here this evening know how that works,” the Bishop stated. “It’s about whatever is necessary in order to communicate with each other. Sometimes that requires speaking, and lots of times it requires simply being the one who listens. Sometimes it requires saying the truth that may not be what the other person may want to hear. Sometimes it requires paying close attention, allowing the other to speak without putting words into that other person’s mouth. That is true for all of us, for every single one of us in our relationship with our Savior. Sometimes it requires speaking to Him from the heart and sometimes it requires listening and allowing the Lord to penetrate our hearts.”
During the Mass, husbands and wives had the opportunity to renew their sacramental commitment to each other.
It was a special moment for Jeff and Tammy, one that filled them with gratitude and optimism for the future.
“I’m looking forward to more years together,” she said.
“It’s a blessing to have her as my wife,” he added.
[Photos: (Top) Jeff and Tammy Hollen at the outdoor Mass for married couples; (First inset) Dozens of couples reaffirmed their sacramental commitment during the liturgy; (Second inset) Bishop Mark and the Very Reverend John Byrnes, JCL, JV, during the Mass.]