During the planning process for my daughter’s wedding I found myself reminiscing about my own special day 36 years ago this month.
As my daughter and I researched photographers I found myself viewing gorgeous photographs of weddings in a variety of settings. There was the golf course wedding, a rustic farm venue and rooms that were decorated beyond belief. I shook my head and asked my daughter if anyone got married in a church these days.
This is when I smiled to myself as I thought of my wedding photographs.
When I was married, our parish in the Red Bridge neighborhood in south Kansas City, St. Thomas More, was still waiting to build its “real” church. Our Masses were in the temporary building that was meant to serve as a gymnasium for our grade school.
For some perspective, I was in second grade when the doors opened to our gymnasium-inspired church, and I was nearly 21 when I was married. This church was not attractive — no soaring arches or marble, just the “stained” push-out windows set high on the walls to cool a gymnasium.
The step-up altar was meant to serve as a stage for future plays or music programs. But to me it was beautiful.
In this church I celebrated many important and memorable life moments. It was here that we were led into the aisles, one class at a time, to celebrate Mass as a school. During one of these all-school Masses we said goodbye to a beloved priest who would become a missionary in a far-off country.
The school gave him a typewriter as a farewell gift, and we all cried. I wondered if I would ever see him again.
There were baptisms and funerals and, yes, plenty of weddings. With the help of flowers and music, our church was made beautiful for all of these occasions. And every time I walked through the doors of our church, for any reason, I felt at home.
I knew where to look for my friends and my cousins as everyone seemed to gravitate toward the same pew each Sunday. And, unbeknownst to me, I am sure I sat in close proximity to my future husband on several Sundays.
The physical limitations of our church did nothing to diminish the spirit of the parishioners. Churches that are adorned with beautiful artwork and architecture can definitely be inspiring and great for pictures, but I would take my church any day.
After all, when you are in Mass praying, with your eyes closed, you do not see the physical trappings. You feel in your heart the beauty of fellowship and the love of your faith.
Every year on our anniversary I drag out our wedding album. The church was decorated with stunning white flowers, and everyone was smiling. The background of the pictures left a lot to be desired, but who is looking at the church, anyway?
I see the faces of family and friends, and especially my husband. There are many people who have passed away since our wedding, so it is good to remember them through photographs. And the same is true for our church as it finally was replaced by a new building.
People leave our lives and so do churches, but their memories are with us always.
Lisa Dunleavy is one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.