Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

  • Thirty-one couples gather in the Monsignor William G. Hoffman Social Hall at St. Joseph Church, Dalton, prior to the afternoon celebration of multiple weddings. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Father Jesús-David Trujillo, right, pastor of St. Joseph Church, Dalton, stands before the couples as he delivers his homily. He worked with the couples six to eight months during the marriage preparation process. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Groom Hector Fraire, second from right, presents 13 gold coins to his bride Gloria, a Latin and Mexican wedding tradition. The coins, blessed by the Father Jesús-David Trujillo during the ceremony, represent Jesus and his 12 disciples. Giving and accepting the coins is a sign of mutual trust and belief in one another. It also becomes a promise to one's new wife that he will support and care for her. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Jane and Bill Pritchard, standing center, place the lazo (lasso) around the shoulders of Angela and Mariano Perez of Chattanooga, Tenn. The large rosary symbolizes the marital union of the couple. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Father Jesús-David Trujillo stands among the 31 couples as their families take a group photograph. Photo By Michael Alexander

Thirty-one couples gather in the Monsignor William G. Hoffman Social Hall at St. Joseph Church, Dalton, prior to the afternoon celebration of multiple weddings. Photo By Michael Alexander


St. Joseph Church Hosts Wedding Mass For 31 Couples

By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published January 3, 2008

More than 500 parishioners were in attendance at St. Joseph Church on Dec. 22 for a unique event—one that married 31 couples in one Mass.

The Mass was celebrated in Spanish, the native tongue for most present, by the pastor, Father Jesús-David Trujillo, known to his congregation as Father J.D.

“This is the first time I celebrated a multiple-couple marriage,” the pastor wrote by e-mail afterward. “I know, in Dalton, on May 5, 2001, Father Abel Guerrero celebrated 11 weddings. This year I celebrated 31.”

The Mass brought the couples, who were either civilly married or not yet married, into communion with the Catholic Church.

The couples processed into the standing-room-only nave that was decorated for the Christmas season. A nearly life-size Nativity scene stood prominently in the sanctuary, which was also decorated with poinsettias and three trimmed Christmas trees.

The couples process into the Whitfield County parish sanctuary as they prepare to undertake the sacrament of matrimony, Dec. 22. Photo By Michael Alexander

The couples took their seats at the front of the church as the Mass began. The readings, which came from Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew, highlighted the importance and necessity of the relationship between a man and a woman.

Following the readings, the pastor welcomed the couples and thanked the attendees for being a part of this unique event.In his homily, Father J.D. explained how this Mass was a combination of new and old traditions. He also expanded on the Gospel’s message, speaking of marriage as special, definitive and lasting forever. The pastor then expressed his joy that this event was taking place during this particular season of the church, a sense he reiterated when he reflected on it later.“All these couples were able to receive the sacrament of Communion now because they are married,” he said. “Especially at Christmas, they were able to celebrate Jesus born in them.”After the homily, all of the couples stood as Father J.D. blessed them. Then each couple proceeded to the altar to exchange vows and rings. The best man and maid of honor for each couple also approached the altar and provided the rings accordingly.

Following the blessing, a large knotted rope or rosary was placed over each of the couples’ heads, showing how the sacrament of marriage connects human families with God’s family.“The large knotted rope is a Mexican tradition that symbolizes the union of the couple,” commented Father J.D. “Externally, they symbolize what they do when they say the vows.”

The congregation was treated to a special surprise when Father J.D. blessed a married couple also present and celebrating their 25th anniversary.

“I was told that they were celebrating their 25th anniversary,” he said later. “For that reason, I asked them to stand in front of the congregation and in front of the new couples as an example for them. This couple, Fredy and Edith Manzanares, didn’t know about this surprise for them; they received a blessing on this occasion.”

According to the pastor, planning a Mass such as this is no easy task. More than 40 couples were originally scheduled to receive the sacrament, but 31 fully completed the necessary preparation. In the pastor’s eyes, this is still a strong positive for the community.

One-year-old Karen Garcia attends a reception in the social hall following the multiple-couple wedding ceremony. She joined her two brothers as they witnessed the sacramental marriage of their parents Sigifredo and Teresa. Photo By Michael Alexander

“I feel so happy that these couples celebrated the sacrament of marriage,” he wrote. “At this moment, I have on a list 16 more couples that have expressed to me the intention to celebrate the sacrament because they consider this is the time to do it and they say they want to do it in a ceremony like this. I know it is a lot of work to do, many papers and preparation, but I was not alone. Father Manuel (de Jesús Rivas-Alvarrado) helped me a lot preparing the couples … and some other volunteers helped me with the celebration.”One of these volunteers was Marisol Sanchez. A parishioner at St. Joseph, Sanchez helps out in many ways, especially in the religious education department.

But on this day, she helped keep the celebration moving, directing couples during Mass and even helping to arrange a reception afterward in the parish hall.“There was a lot of preparation, making sure everything in the Mass went in order,” said Sanchez.

“We wanted to make sure everyone knew what they were doing so there was no confusion. All the couples were so happy to be there and were so happy to receive the sacrament of matrimony.”

While the joint wedding Mass helped the couples save money, most took part in this special celebration in order to re-establish their connection with the Catholic Church, the pastor said.

“The purpose was to bring more people to Communion,” commented Father J.D. “All the couples who celebrated marriage on Dec. 22 were living together or were civilly married for more than five years. Some of them were living together without the sacrament for 28 and 30 years. I enjoyed seeing these couples celebrating this sacrament and receiving the body and the blood of Jesus Christ after a long, long time. That is the satisfaction I received.”

“This was a very special moment for us,” said Sigifredo Garcia, who married his partner Teresa after being together for four years. “We had been waiting for this. It was a beautiful ceremony.”

St. Joseph Church is located at 1775 Haig Mill Road, Dalton. For more information on the parish, visit or call (706) 278-3107.