AREND de Weger had just returned home from the Vietnam War when his brother invited him to a Young Christian Workers youth meeting, and Arend told him he had just been to war and was not a youth anymore.
Fatefully, Arend showed up anyway.
He was not even in the hall at St John Vianney’s, Manly parish, when he looked inside and asked, “Who’s that girl over there?”
The other guys standing with him said, “That’s Kay, you’ve got no chance with her …”
“And I said, ‘I’m going to marry that girl’ … and I did,” Mr de Weger said.
Arend and Kay have been married 50 years and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with 85 other couples at a Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, on September 29.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated the anniversary Mass with Sunnybank parish priest Fr Dan Ryan and Kingaroy parish administrator Fr Chukwudi Chinaka concelebrating.
Fr Ryan said it was wonderful to see 86 couples celebrating 50 years of marriage.
Fr Ryan’s sister and her husband were among the 86 couples, and he said they were really happy to be there with some of their children and grandchildren celebrating with them.
“I know my sister and her husband are great role models for their family,” he said.
“They’re quite happy and they’re still happy 50 years later through the ups and downs of life.”
More than anything, Fr Ryan was impressed how many people were there.
“The Archbishop said that many years ago there wouldn’t be so many people celebrating their 50s because people didn’t live that long,” Fr Ryan said.
Mr de Weger said it was a lovely event and it was only one day after his real wedding anniversary date, which made it special.
He said it didn’t feel like 50 years.
Meeting his wife was “only like yesterday”, he said.
“Marriage is a joining of two people, permanently, and it’s not one individual doing their thing and the other individual doing their thing, we do things together,” he said.
“That’s what we’ve done throughout our whole lives. Everything we do, we do together.
“You know you have to give and take, and be forgiving … We’re just so close it’s not funny.”
Mr de Weger said having a strong faith base was “very important”.
“It gives you the purpose, it gives you the example,” he said. “It’s something you can fall back on if times get difficult; you pray.
“It’s something you can do together …
“We’ve been truly blessed, we really have, and we put all that down to the faith.”
Mr de Weger comes from a large family and his wife is an only child.
“That was a bit of a rude shock for her,” he said with a laugh.
“Now she’s part of the family, (and) family means everything to us and still does.
“We’re all still together and that’s good.
“Every year we have St Nick’s celebrations.
“We get together.
“The family’s increased and increased, you know … I’ve lost count; the last time we were together it was about 100 and something.”
He also praised YCW, where he met his wife, and said it was a pity that didn’t exist anymore.
“I ended up getting a papal blessing,” he said.
“I went through the process of getting one and it just arrived the day before.
“My wife had no idea I was getting it.
“It came through the parish; that was nice to hang up permanently.”