How Catholic couples thrive in marriage

Feb 10, 2022

ORLANDO | Today’s odds of having a successful marriage are as reliable as playing the slots, but it can be said what helped marriages thrive in the past still stands true. As we celebrate National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14), and its theme, The Joy of Love, the Florida Catholic asks two couples for their secret to success.


Penny and Patrick Delerme of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park are happily married for 23 years. (COURTESY)

Patrick and Penny Delerme are the quintessential devout couple. The couple has been married 23 years and attend Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park. Their love is rooted in faith – a faith Patrick shared with Penny many years ago. Penny converted to Catholicism because of the way Patrick spoke of his loving relationship with Christ. It made life joyful and she wanted that too.

“He is at our center,” said Penny. “We praise Him when things are good. We praise Him when we’re going through hardship.”

They have difficulties every now and again like all married couples, but Penny says she and Patrick try to look for the “lessons to be learned”. They treat each other with respect and realize their marriage is a life-long vocation.

Patrick always tells friends, being married is a full-time commitment, “a 24/7 occupation.” He says, “Love is action oriented. It is not an emotion. It is not feeling like, I love you 24/7. We may have petty squabbles, but love as the action is still there. You keep working at it.”

Both he and Penny believe many marriages fail because people focus on feelings. The Delermes desire a stronger bond and brighter future. “We both want to honor God, stay together regardless of our struggles,” explained Penny. “So, there is no divorce in our language.”

They both dismiss things of this world for the Divine. Realizing joy does not come from material possessions, they focus on their partner and their journey together. They make time for each other and plan small dates on anniversaries, holidays, or just because.

“We have to take time to make memories, even if it’s just holding hands at the beach or at the park,” said Patrick. “It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It is time to rejuvenate one another and rekindle. Small things add up to big memories.”

Penny and Patrick Delerme were married by Father Sean Cooney July 10, 1999 at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Winter Park. (COURTESY)

Their love becomes even more apparent when they call to mind their favorite Scripture. “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous… It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”(1 Cor 13:4-7). Patrick gets misty at the mention of the verses, acknowledging they always make him cry.

“Having Christ in your heart and your spouse’s heart and growing together in that walk is a real eternal joy,” said Patrick. “It is like a piece of heaven on earth.”


For Kay and Dave Nowak, mindset going into marriage is what matters and they should know after 45 years together.

Dave and Kay Nowak in 1975 just prior to their wedding. (COURTESY)

Your partner needs to be your priority. That’s easy when you’re dating and having fun, but Dave admits marriage can be a pressure cooker. Suddenly the top is on tight – children, jobs, and life begin to build stress. He says relieving that pressure and remaining passionate, “takes a lot of work and imagination.”

Kay remembers a priest once telling her, clerics go on retreat once a year “to support their Sacrament of priesthood. You are living in a sacramental union and you need a retreat experience every year for the same reason – to keep your sacrament strong.”

The Nowaks have been in marriage ministry for four decades now. Accompanying other couples helps keep their tools sharpened. They have difficult conversations before resentments build. “It is important to learn ways to stay connected with your own feelings and then sharing those and not shoving them under the carpet,” shared Kay.

Kay and Dave Nowak, of Ascension Parish, Melbourne, worked with pre-cana couples for more than 40 years. (COURTESY)

They’ve also noticed that couples used to get married in their 20s, now they’re often in their 30s and most of them have lived together for a while. Many think this will help them later, but Kay notes it’s a dangerous lukewarm level of commitment. If the couple is looking “to cohabitate for a couple of years and see if it works,” then get married, it usually doesn’t stick.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic Staff, February 10, 2022