Celebrating their 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary, Arlando Arokiam and Vanakka Mary Susei Odayar could not have been more elated that their son Fr. Martin Andrews Arlando, parish priest of the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang was there to celebrate with them in a unique way. The fact that they could see their son, at the altar officiating their wedding renewal vows on the 20th August, 2016 was a special honor. To add to this auspicious occasion, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam, Fr Charles Chin, Fr Nelson Chitty, Fr Victor Louis, Fr Joachim Robert, Deacon Lazarus were also present as con-celebrants.
The place itself could not have been more nostalgic, knowing that the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Butterworth, was the same venue where the couple got married and the same church where their son was ordained. The church was decorated with beaming bold colors, where brighter was better with the family and many of the guests were also dressed in traditional saris, lengha and jewelled adored clothes.
Arlando, better known as Arul, declared that his wife is not only his pillar of strength but also to his beloved siblings and family members. His wife, Mary said that her husband has always taken good care of her and never made her miss her family as they are far away in India. He has always given her love and attended to her every need. This was especially so as she had travelled from India as a young bride of 16 years old. They have had the gift of three beautiful children and the hero became a priest.
The couple were joined by their other two daughters Stella Roseline and Celestine, son-in-law, grand children, nephews, nieces and god-children. In addition, Mrs Mary’s siblings, three of them including a nun, Sister Arulmary from the Daughters of St Paul, Mumbai, India also graced the occasion. Also present were Arul’s siblings, two brothers and a sister along with other family members from Malaysia, Singapore and those relatives who traveled a long way from India together with other close friends.
In his homily, Fr Martin shared his reflections of his parents and their life together especially how much sacrifice they have made for the family. He also included many stories of the love he experienced in his life with his parents. Some of his comments included the following:
“Like Jesus pointing out in the gospel the qualities of PATIENCE, TOLERANCE, COMPASSION AND SERVANTHOOD, the both of them lived this out to the very best, otherwise it is not possible to live 50 years of marriage.
They didn’t have a luxurious life. Always living a simple one and sacrificing for us, the children and also for my dad’s siblings and his parents. Being the eldest, he was deprived of the enjoyment of his youth and early adult life as he grew up early into the working adult life and caring for his family. Mom was the tender sweet 16 and well, being the eldest child, she had the usual responsibilities of a lady’s work at home, in the kitchen and tending to agriculture. Appa was 27 years old and Amma, 16 years old when they got married. How they met? Simple! They had FACETIME. Of course, Facetime was just looking at a photograph and checking out the background and then say “yes”. No dating, no courtship, nothing at all. Just trust in their parents’ selection and most importantly, in God. Amma, having to leave a faraway land and coming to a totally new land and culture, it was not easy to immediately start and be happy and go on with family life. On the one hand she had to let go of her family and then begin embracing a whole lot of new bunch of characters ….”
After the homily, the couple renewed their wedding vows, followed by the blessing of the rings as well as the exchange of “maalai” (Tamil word for garlands). The garlands consisted of colorful flowers to represent excitement, happiness, and beauty – all tied together on a string signifying the marital union.
The anniversary mass was very moving and emotional, a teary eyed Fr. Martin was almost lost for words as he delivered his special message of thanksgiving for his parents. In celebrating his parents’ 50th anniversary with them, it seemed that there was not much of a difference between his parents’ vocation and his own. They are both vocations of love, fidelity and being faithful to their vows.
The wedding ceremony was repeated at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) in Penang. Fr Martin said he had wanted to celebrate the occasion with his family back at CDM. It was held at the evening mass on the same day. A certificate of the Apostolic Blessing given by His Holy Father Pope Francis invoking an abundance of divine graces through the intercession of Virgin Mary to the couple on their 50th Wedding Anniversary was handed out for the congregation to see. In addition, the couple each also received a rosary blessed by the Pope as a gift from the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino.
|After the end of the ceremony in church, the couple walked down a red carpet to the church basement where a wedding cake was cut. The parishioners were all treated to a catered dinner followed by songs and dances. It was most heartwarming to witness the joy that permeated the occasion as the couples’ grand children danced for them and when Fr joined in an Indian dance with his parents. Everyone present felt so fortunate and blessed to be able to be part of the celebration and to witness such a rare occurrence of lasting matrimonial love between two people.|
It is also very timely that Fr. Martin’s sacerotal ordination anniversary was coming up a week later. Fidelity is more than just being together, it is about being ever faithful to one’s vows all the time and living one’s vocation more fully.
It appears that Fr. Martin never really chose a different path from his parents as his vocation is founded on theirs. At the end of the ceremony, Fr Martin thanked his siblings, brother-in-law, relatives, cousins and CDM parish ministry volunteers for organizing the mass and also the combined CDM choir who sang songs of praises during the mass.
Written by Nix Juban
26th August, 2016