Sharing the light of their marriage


Staff reporter

Milford deacon and his wife teach engaged couples

MILFORD — One recent night John and Peggy Yaeger spontaneously decided to go out to dinner. So they did and enjoyed each other’s company.

A few years back their married life wasn’t so simple; before going out they had to arrange for someone to care for their four children. “It’s easier now,” said John, a deacon in the church.

“It’s spontaneous,” added Peggy. “We’re practically empty-nesters” with one young-adult child at home.

The couple, married for 27 years, appreciate all the stages of marriage. For the last 10 years the Yaegers have shared their perspectives on married life by leading the Pre-Cana program in Bethany Beach (and more recently, in Easton, Md.) offered by the Diocese of Wilmington to couples preparing for marriage.

(See list of Pre-Cana courses on page 15.)

Along with teaching the theology of marriage, the Yaegers cover basics such as communications, finances, and every-day living skills. They sometimes blend their own experiences into the classes.

The Yaegers, both 50 and members of St. John the Apostle Church in Milford, work to make their sessions “upbeat and fun,” Peggy said, because they realize the couples are dealing with the pressures of planning their wedding in addition to their daily life. “We want them to enjoy themselves while learning what they need to know” and move them beyond “wedding rings and dresses” to the art of living together.

About 10 couples usually attend the Bethany Beach sessions, held in spring and in fall.

“The Yaegers are living witnesses for the sacrament of marriage,” said Michael Stankewicz, director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life. Their marriage is an example for couples preparing for marriage to aspire to and live out in their own lives, he added.

Room ‘in our hearts’

The Yaegers became involved in marriage preparation as a ministry while John was studying to become a permanent deacon; he was ordained in 2004. Peggy appreciates being able to lead the classes as a couple, saying “it reminds us of the importance of staying together through thick and thin. It makes us grateful for each other.”

They met in a dorm’s laundry room at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. John, a pharmacist at Milford Hospital, completed college there but Peggy, a social worker with the Delaware Division of Family Services, left during her second year; she later earned a degree in behavioral science from Wilmington University, where she’s working on a master’s degree.

Their romance continued and after John graduated, the couple married in January 1984. They lived in New Jersey, where John grew up, and had two children, Michael, now 25, and Catherine, 23.

“We felt very fortunate,” Peggy said, but “we felt we had the room in the house and in our hearts” for more children. “We decided to adopt children who needed a home.”

During the mid-1990s adoption process, the Yaegers moved to Delaware and Catholic Charities of the diocese conducted the home study required for adoption. Soon Ashley, now 19, and Lance, now 18, were added to the family.

Over the years John and Peggy have worked together in Scouting and on church projects, so leading Pre-Cana classes seemed a natural progression.

The Yaegers recall a now-deceased couple at St. John’s, Bill and Corrine Kohel, who were a model of marriage for them.

“We think about them often when we talk about marriage being a lifetime commitment,” John Yaeger said. “It’s their sticking together through thick and thin that’s like that lamp” in Matthew 5:15.

That passage from Matthew is the final prayer for the classes the Yaegers teach. It goes: “Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.”