Parishes should designate a “Sunday of Welcome” for newly-weds – Bishop Denis Nulty

13 Feb 2023

  • Sacrament of marriage reassures every couple that God will never leave them
  • Marriage enrichment programmes to support couples on their life journey


This morning in the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street, Dublin, Bishop Denis Nulty, President of the Catholic marriage support service Accord CLG, celebrates 11.30am Mass ahead of the Feast of Saint Valentine which will be celebrated universally tomorrow on 14 February.  During the liturgy a number of couples will renew their marriage vows.  After Mass, Bishop Nulty, will bless engaged couples, and their rings, at the shrine in the church which contains the holy relics of Saint Valentine.  The couples are: Orla Gavin and Patrick (PJ) Corcoran, and Ilona Catharine Dorrepaal and Patrick Michael Lennon – see profiles below.

Words of Bishop Denis Nulty at the Shrine of Valentine, Archdiocese of Dublin

I welcome all of you to the Shrine of St. Valentine here in Whitefriar Street Church. It is to here that the Carmelite Fr. John Spratt, who was a tireless worker for the homeless and the poor, brought the relics of St. Valentine. He was gifted them by Pope Gregory XVI for the eloquence of his preaching while on a visit to Rome in 1835. Over the years thousands of couples like Ilona and Patrick & Orla and PJ have come for a blessing, to light a candle, to leave behind an intention.

I often think at the Shrine here we concentrate too much on the relics and miss the quiet witness of the many couples who come here from all over the world with their own story of love, of joy, of hope for a brighter future. A week ago southern Turkey and northern Syria were decimated by earthquakes, the number of casualties continues to grow exponentially each passing day. It’s nearly a year since the invasion of Ukraine, too many casualties, so many spouses and families displaced and separated.

The message that God is with us, God is journeying with us, even in our darkest hour, He is there. It’s important for the couples here today to realise this, as its important for all of living on this fragile planet. The sacrament of marriage reassures every couple that God will never leave them. This joy is what we are celebrating this day that He is always by our side. 

Choosing to celebrate the sacrament of marriage is a profound decision in the life of a couple. Our two couples represent the many couples across this island who will celebrate the sacrament this coming year, connecting their love for one another to the source of love, who is God. A sacrament is like the 3-D glasses we watched movies with; love is not just between the couple themselves, but firmly united with God.

Pope Francis is very anxious that we accompany couples in their life journey. Like God, we too are by their side, walking alongside the couple, at their pace, in their step. The day a couple celebrates the sacrament of marriage is a huge day of joy and celebration; maybe we should also find some way of marking their first, second and third anniversaries! Sending them a card, remembering to text, give them a call. Perhaps our parish communities might find ways of welcoming young couples, I think of a designated ‘Sunday of Welcome’. Accord, through its three autonomous companies, looks forward to developing Marriage Enrichment Programmes that would support couples with skills for the pressures of life today.

But today is about Ilona and Patrick & Orla and PJ who like thousands before them have come to the Shrine of St. Valentine for a blessing, as they continue their preparation for marriage. We pray for them and all couples preparing for the sacrament at this time.


Notes for editors

  • Bishop Denis Nulty is Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin and President of Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG
  • Information on Accord courses, or on becoming a facilitator with Accord, please see or contact us by email [email protected] and phone: 01 5053112
  • Profile of engaged couples to receive the blessing at the Shrine of Saint Valentine
  1. Ilona Catharine Dorrepaal and Patrick Michael Lennon are both primary school teachers who first met in the Gaeltacht in Dingle.  Ilona says, “Patrick was new to my year in college in Marino, Dublin.  Pretty soon we were dancing together at the céilís.”  Ilona is originally from Dublin, her Mam is from Wicklow and her Dad is Dutch.  Patrick is from Meath, his Mam is from Dublin and his Dad from Roscommon; They live in Maynooth, Co Kildare.  The couple have been together for five and a half years; their marriage will take place on 16 February 2024 in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Saint Mary’s, Keadue), Roscommon, Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnois, followed by a reception in Kilronan Castle.
  • What do you like most about your fiancé/e?  Patrick likes that Ilona is a kind and helpful person and is generally always happy.  Ilona likes that Patrick loves to make her laugh, he supports her and always tries to make sure that she is happy.
  • Why have you chosen to be married in the Church?  “We both grew up going to church with our parents. Ilona’s Mam and Patrick’s Mam and Dad come from strong Catholic backgrounds.  We were both altar servers when we were children.”
  1. Orla Gavin and Patrick (PJ) Corcoran: Orla is a Psychiatric Nurse originally from Mullingar and Patrick is a Quality Controller who hails from Tipperary Town. The couple first met the night before the first day of college in the ‘Stables Club’ at the University of Limerick, and have been together since.  PJ proposed to Orla a week before finishing her nursing internship on the 16 September, this being exactly four years and a week after they had first met.  Their wedding is planned for the 20 December next in The Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Diocese of Meath.
  • What do you like most about your fiancé/e?  Orla: “Patrick’s kindness”; Patrick: “Orla’s caring nature”.
  • Why have you chosen to be married in the Church? “Because we both share a strong faith and our Irish tradition.”                                     

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Lisa Sheridan +353 (0) 86 084 3175.