The Diocese of Phoenix will hold its annual Mass and luncheon to honor the sacrament of marriage Sept. 22 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. The event promotes and celebrates marriage, especially for couples celebrating 25th, 40th and 50th milestone anniversaries.

Those couples — and others who have been married even longer — will receive a special blessing and commemorative certificate.

Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life Issues for the Phoenix Diocese, said it’s important to build up marriage in a society where it is constantly being undermined.

“Culturally, we are either dealing with an indifference toward marriage or an attempt to redefine it,” Phelan said. “It really is a valid question as to whether we could have this event in 30 years. Will it even generate enough people coming to hold an event?”

Phelan said the presence of couples at the Mass who are celebrating silver or gold anniversaries will be especially important.

“We’ve got to uphold, promote and celebrate this very livable reality,” Phelan said. “It’s not an impossible dream. We will have couples there that have been married 65, 70 years — happily married; it doesn’t mean it was easy, but it was happily. It’s a great gift just to be in the presence of such people who have lived the vocation so beautifully and so richly.”

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who will celebrate the Sept. 22 Mass, referred to the words of Blessed John Paul II in St. Louis in 1999 with regard to the family: “As the family goes, so goes the nation,” the late pontiff said.

“The foundation of the family is marriage, so any event that celebrates and strengthens marriage is a blessing for married couples and for our country,” Bishop Olmsted said. “In the face of the many attacks on marriage today, the Church greatly desires to celebrate marriage and family life, and to offer prayers and encouragement to all married couples and their families. I hope many of our faithful people will be present at the cathedral to celebrate marriage with us.”

Dan Jurek, a marriage counselor and lay Franciscan, will be the featured speaker at the luncheon following the Mass.

Jurek — who has been married for 27 years and hosts a radio show on Radio Maria — has a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from Our Lady of Holy Cross College, as well as a master’s in Christian ministry and renewal from Franciscan University, Steubenville.

“He is a gifted marriage counselor and speaker who’s had tremendous success enriching and assisting marriages that are troubled,” Phelan said.

In former years, the annual Mass and luncheon were held around Valentine’s Day. Beginning this year, the Mass in honor of marriage moves to September and in 2013 will be held in conjunction with a marriage conference.

Phelan said the remarkable success of the annual Phoenix Diocese’s men’s conference and its women’s conference inspired the change. ✴