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Marriage Encounter honours couple married 78 years

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


The Evoys’ extended family pose for a group photograph after Margaret and Nelson Evoy received Worldwide Marriage Encounter’s Longest Married Couple in Canada Award Feb. 12 in Ottawa. The Evoys have been married 78 years. (CCN/Deborah Gyapong photo)

OTTAWA (CCN) — Five generations of family braved a snowstorm Feb. 12 to celebrate Margaret and Nelson Evoy’s 78 years of fruitful and happy marriage.

At the celebration, World Wide Marriage Encounter (WWME) representatives Merv and Jessica Sullivan presented the Evoys with the Longest Married Couple in Canada award. The worldwide apostolate created the award four years ago to highlight the importance of marriage.

Last October, WWME launched the search for the 2017 winner, seeking nominations from across the country. One of the Evoys’ daughters, Suzanne Sheppard, put in parents’ names.

“Marriage is not only a blessing to each other, but a blessing to the community,” said Merv Sullivan before presenting the framed award certificate. “You have blessed our community so amazingly just by the love you have for each other.”

The Evoys had six children, one of whom died at age five months. They have 13 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and four great, great grandchildren. Many of the extended family gathered for the celebration in a party room of the retirement residence where the Evoys have lived for the past seven years. The couple remain active members of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, and still attend services from time to time.

A choir of great grandchildren sang “I can’t help falling in love with you,” to the couple after everyone enjoyed lunch. Sheppard said the family commonly organizes a talent show when they get together.

“It’s the most wonderful feeling,” said Margaret Evoy, 98, in an interview. “We’re blessed to receive this award.”

“This is something we never expected,” said Nelson Evoy, 99.

The couple met at an Ottawa skating rink when she was 13 and he was 14, and immediately developed a “crush” on each other. After dating for five years, they married at St. Luke’s Anglican Church on Oct. 22, 1938.

Both of them credit the role of God and the church in their long and happy marriage.

“I was never a Bible-thumper,” Nelson said. “But the church was part of our lives. We brought up our children to be Christian, to be thoughtful and thankful for having the Lord with us.”

“I don’t know how we are able to get through any of it without him,” he said.

The couple shared some advice on how to have a long-lasting, happy marriage.

“We never argue,” said Nelson. “If we had something to purchase, we always did it as a pair, thinking it over without jumping into it.”

“We enjoyed being together,” Margaret said. “I feel very blessed to have a good husband. He was a good father and a good husband.”

“I think we have to show each other pretty well daily how much you care and try to always speak it,” Margaret said.

“You have to do things together,” Nelson said. “You don’t go out and do things on your own and then come back and tell your wife. This is the most frugal lady you can imagine, thank God!”

Nelson said their life together “doesn’t seem that long.”

The Sullivans presented the WWME award on behalf of the Canadian Ecclesial Leadership Team: Ana Lilian Ayala and her husband Ernesto Ayala, based in the Vancouver diocese, and Rev. Michael Basque.

“Most couples come to marriage with a lot of expectations,” said Ana Lilian Ayala in an interview. “Sometimes those expectations are not shared.”

If they are kept to oneself, they can create barriers to communication, she said. Through sponsoring Marriage Encounter weekends, couples can learn concepts such as “listening with your heart,” and “love is a decision,” Ayala said. In the 60-80 weekends WWME runs across Canada in a year, couples learn techniques to express their feelings and gain empathy.

WWME began in the United States as a Catholic movement almost 50 years ago, though it is open to people of other denominations. It’s now active in 90 countries. Not only does it promote marriage, but also vocations to the priesthood. The contest is open to any couple, even atheists, who have an enduring marriage.

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