The annual diocesan wedding anniversary Mass celebrated Sept. 28 at St. John the Beloved Church was a special one for two couples celebrating milestones in 2014. Donald and Angelina Lewis, along with Norman and Marie Carroll, marked marriages that have brought priests to the Diocese of Wilmington.
Father Brian Lewis, who was ordained in 2013, is an associate pastor at St. John the Beloved, while Father Norman Carroll, a priest since 1993, is the pastor at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington. Both sons were on hand to celebrate with their parents.
The Lewises, natives of Delaware County, Pa., have been in Wilmington since 1967, a few years after their marriage at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Secane, Pa. They moved to Delaware for a very practical reason – housing was more affordable in the First State.
“We weren’t that far from where we lived in Pennsylvania. It was so close,” said Mrs. Lewis, known to everyone as “Ginnie.”
“The newer homes were being constructed in Brandywine Hundred,” her husband added. “I was working in Marcus Hook (Pa.) at the time.”
The couple settled in the Northcrest development and have been there ever since. They joined Holy Rosary Parish in Claymont, where Brian and his older brother, Donald Jr., attended school. Their parents became quite involved in parish life after the boys started going to school there.
“You’re so busy volunteering because you wanted to and that’s where you belonged,” Mrs. Lewis said. “Also, Holy Rosary is like family. When you go into that church, it’s like, ‘Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in two weeks!’”
Mr. Lewis has had his own accounting firm since 1974. Its current location is in Holly Oak, not far from his home. Mrs. Lewis works in the office, as does their older son.
The pair met when they were teenagers.
“One Saturday, Don and a friend came to a girlfriend’s house who lived right next door. I looked out the window and thought, ‘I don’t know who that one is but I’m going to find out.’ So a couple weeks later we go to meet. I did ask her who you were,” Mrs. Lewis said.
They began dating before Mr. Lewis’ senior year of high school and stayed together through his six years in the U.S. Navy.
“I joined the service during my junior year of high school, and I went to boot camp in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I joined then because I didn’t want to be drafted. And I didn’t want any other branch,” he said.
They are proud of both of their sons. Donald Jr. is married with one daughter. Brian taught high school for many years before entering the priesthood.
“We told our boys, whatever direction you want to go is fine as long as you wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to work’ with some enthusiasm,” Mrs. Lewis said. “That’s the important thing.”
Having a son who is a priest is a source of pride for them, but they realize they have to share him with his parishioners. Father Lewis is very busy at St. John’s, which has a large congregation and school.
Mrs. Lewis said she may call him in the morning and hours later he has not called back. That took some getting used to, she admits.
“You have to gear for that, and you have to understand. God is first, then family and parishioners, and maybe parishioners come first,” she said.
The secret to a good marriage, they say, is “understanding, patience, love, of course. I just think trying to understand what’s going through both minds,” Mrs. Lewis said.
Two individuals need to adjust to thinking as a couple, she continued.
“I agree,” Mr. Lewis added with a hearty laugh.
He said too many people approach marriage with the thought that they can just give up and walk away if things get too difficult.
“They do not work at it,” he said. “You must work at it.”
Father Carroll’s parents, Norman Sr. and Marie, attended school together at both Little Flower and St. Patrick’s schools on Wilmington’s East Side, where they grew up. They did not become a couple until high school. Marie attended St. Elizabeth High School, while Norman went to Brown Vocational High School.
“St. Elizabeth had a prom and you had to ask a boy because we only had seven boys in our class, so I asked him to the prom and we started going out together after that,” Mrs. Carroll said.
That wasn’t the only prom they attended.
“She took me to my prom,” Mr. Carroll said. “My father wouldn’t let me have my license yet.”
They married in 1959 at Christ Our King Church in Wilmington, which was Mrs. Carroll’s parish at the time. They settled in New Castle in 1961 and have been in the same house ever since, attending Holy Spirit Church and now, when their son says the 11 a.m. Mass, St. Elizabeth.
Father Carroll is the third of the couple’s five children, all of whom attended Holy Spirit. The family was active in the parish and school.
“We worked over at Holy Spirit a lot. We worked bingos and carnivals,” Mrs. Carroll said.
“A good Catholic family,” Mr. Carroll added.
Now retired, Mr. Carroll was a truck mechanic. His wife worked for Rollins Leasing and also in the cafeteria at Delcastle High School and the after-school program at Holy Spirit.
“She left John Rollins for me. Gave up a good job,” Mr. Carroll said. She left to have a child.
The Carrolls, both 76, remembered that Father Carroll was active at Holy Spirit before entering the seminary. He taught religious education and worked with the youth group.
“The people he worked with, they were the ones who sort of told him” he should become a priest, Mrs. Carroll said.
“I just didn’t want to deal with it,” Father Carroll said.
Mrs. Carroll said having a priest in the family is “beautiful. We’ve had a lot of compliments people have given us about him. A lot of the people from Holy Spirit, Norm grew up there, they ask about him all the time.”
When Father Carroll was the pastor at St. Benedict in Ridgely, Md., and its mission, St. Elizabeth of Hungary in nearby Denton, Md., his parents used to travel and spend weekends with him there. They became local celebrities, the priest said.
Mrs. Carroll recalled that Father Carroll was at their home when Bishop Malooly called to tell him he had been assigned to St. Elizabeth. Father Carroll recounted what happened next.
“My dad’s reaction was, ‘Oh, so you’re going to be Msgr. Burns?’ Come to find out that Msgr. Burns was never the pastor and never monsignor,” Father Carroll said with a laugh.
Father Francis X. Burns was administrator at the parish, but not the pastor.
The Carrolls have six grandchildren, four of whom were baptized by Father Carroll. All are in the area.
Mrs. Carroll reflected on celebrating 55 years of marriage. “It doesn’t seem like that.”
“Sure it does,” her husband joked.
They said trust is one of the biggest factors to a long union. They also credited their children and grandchildren with helping make it a happy marriage.
Mr. Carroll said a Marriage Encounter weekend many years ago has helped them to this day.
“We went there in 1977, and what we learned from there helped us out a lot,” he said.