In what kind of soil do healthy male-female relationships leading to marriage grow, and with what kinds of attitudes and support might those marriages not only survive but thrive?
Bruce and Paulene Creenaune know – in the deepest sense – having lived it out for the past 65 years.
Theirs was one of 72 marriages celebrated at Wollongong Diocese’s annual Marriage Anniversaries Mass on 18 September, at St John Vianney’s Catholic Church in Fairy Meadow.
Bruce and Paulene met only two years after the end of World War II.
They lived in the small country town of Gilgandra (NSW) where their families knew each other, meeting for the first time at a bush dance for the Bush Fire Brigade in a little town called Biddon, not far from Gilgandra.
Over the next four years they only saw each other from time-to-time as Bruce was often away cooking for shearers across Central-West NSW.
When they did have time together they usually went to country dances, the movies and played tennis with family and friends.
After they married, Bruce and Paulene moved to Dubbo NSW where Bruce got a job with the Postmaster General’s Department. It was happy times at Dubbo as they celebrated the birth of their first daughter. The great Dubbo Flood of 1955 sparked a turning point in their life and they packed up and moved to Sydney. Fourteen years and another four children later, Bruce and Paulene relocated to Wollongong, a place they were familiar with as they had spent many happy family holidays camping at different places down the coast.
When asked what makes for a good marriage, Bruce and Paulene said, “Generally we’re not ones for giving advice out to others. Although the times have changed, the fundamentals are the same – marriage is about give and take, it’s about communicating with each other, respecting each other’s points of view and about being there for the other person.
“We both see ourselves very much within the context of our broader family and agree that it’s the bonds of the family we have that has kept us together. When times are tough or when big decisions need to be made, we always do it together and with our family’s love and support.
“Our faith has also been a big part of our lives. We grew up in the faith and continued to carry it into our marriage. Prayer in particular has been a great source of comfort in difficult times.”
The example of their own parents’ marriages had been particularly formative, said Bruce, “Paulene and I saw the way both our parents lived out their married lives and their sense of family influenced us to follow their example.”
The experience of bona fide church community had been a great help, said Paulene, during the busiest days of parenting.
“During our time in Wollongong now with six children, parenting was ‘full-on’ all the time,” she said.
“The children’s education was always a priority for our family. Educating your children in Catholic schools in those days also meant a lot of volunteer work at the school which we willingly took part in. The community life of the parish and school was the way in which we made friends and formed connections with other people.”
During the early years in Wollongong, Paulene gave her time sewing for the school every Tuesday as well as working in the tuck shop and teaching Scripture at a local public school. Paulene still teaches Scripture each week.
Speaking on the occasion of the special anniversary Mass, the bishop of Wollongong, Bishop Peter Ingham, said it was one of his favourite events of the year, lauding the couples’ “inspirational and powerful witness to love and faithfulness, enduring even through tough times”.
He also had a word to say about other great exemplars of love.
“There are many challenges facing marriages and families today. I am particularly humbled by the sacrifices of love which single parents make for their children, and the generosity of couples and families in the work they do in the wider community.”