Thirty years ago, Anne and Tim Fann and Joyce and Mark Markowski celebrated the sacrament of marriage on the same hot weekend in August.
Neither couple knew each other at the time, but through a wrong turn while house hunting, years later they landed five doors away from each other in a subdivision in Manchester. And through a few more turns — and as it were, totally planned by God — the four of them will be attending the World Meeting of Families in Dublin later this month as a 30th anniversary present to themselves.
The Fanns of St. Joseph Parish in Manchester and the Markowskis of St. Gerard Majella in Kirkwood are among 18 people from the Archdiocese of St. Louis who will travel to Ireland Aug. 16-27. The St. Louis contingent, organized by the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, will join groups from the dioceses of Wichita, Kan., and Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. Father Brian Fallon, pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Crestwood, and Father Will Ganci of Pensacola-Tallahassee, will lead the tour.
After some touring on the Emerald Isle, the pilgrimage group will attend the World Meeting of Families congress in Dublin Aug. 22-24. The international event is held every three years, and includes the Holy Father, bishops, theologians, members of Catholic movements and Catholic families from all over the world, whose goal is to strengthen their work and witness to the Catholic vision of marriage and family life. The sessions will focus on Pope Francis’ letter, “Amoris Laetitia,” (“The Joy of Love”), which offers reflections on modern family life.
The Markowskis met the Fanns nearly 20 years ago, when the Fanns moved in down the street. Anne Fann worked with a woman who lived next door to the Markowskis and told the Fanns, who were in the market for a new house, that one had become available in the neighborhood.
On the way to check out the house, the Fanns made a wrong turn and ended up on the Markowskis’ street. They stumbled across a different home for sale, which ended up being five doors up the street from the Markowskis. A friendship ensued, with their children often playing together in the cul de sac, and large Halloween parties that involved the whole neighborhood.
About 10 years ago, the couples discovered by accident that they were married on the same weekend in 1988 — Aug. 12 for the Fanns and the Markowskis on Aug. 13. When both were approaching their 30th anniversary, Anne and Joyce started thinking about making plans to do something special — and unbeknownst to each other, that involved taking a trip to Ireland.
“A week later, I saw the Facebook invitation from the Office of Marriage and Family Life,” said Joyce Markowski. “I read, ‘Ireland pilgrimage’ — done.”
Among the speakers the couples are looking forward to is Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, who will speak about what Jesus is calling families to be.
“We need to focus on loving each other,” said Joyce Markwoski. “How much better place would the world be if everybody did everything through love? If they only did things because they were trying to show love to someone else?”
Anne Fann said the secular notion of “me” and “now” is what dominates our culture. “It’s like, wait a minute, there really is a bigger picture here,” she said. “This world is so disjointed. We’ve lost our direction and focus. We just need to ask Jesus to light a path for us.”
World Meeting of Families online
Facebook: World Meeting of Families 2018
Follow local updates: Father Brian Fallon is on Twitter @ohfallon; Melissa Keating from the Office of Marriage and Family Life will post updates on Twitter and Instagram @AndCompanions