Cumberland couple marks 70 years of marriage and religious tolerance

Dorothy and Fred Squires are shown on their wedding day, Jan. 17, 1950. (Courtesy Squires Family)

The Squires – Dorothy and Fred – with their six children in tow, used to attend both Catholic and Lutheran liturgies on Christmas and Easter in Cumberland. It was a way for Mom (a Catholic) and Dad (a Lutheran) to maintain their own faith traditions while encouraging religious toleration and respect among their children.

“We both were determined to make it work,” Fred said.

And make it work they did.

In the decades since the self-named “Evangelical Eight” used to attend Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary in Cumberland and the Christmas Eve Lutheran services down the road at St. John, the family has grown to include 16 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

While only Dorothy, 91, and Fred, 92, still make the visits to both churches on holidays, both St. Mary and St. John played big roles in the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary celebrations this month.

The Squires married on Jan. 17, 1950, at St. Mary, which is now part of Our Lady of the Mountains, and agreed at the time to raise their children in Dorothy’s Catholic faith.

The couple met through mutual friends and dated for more than a year before tying the knot. Fred remembered feeling he had fallen head over heels for his “city girl.”

“I loved the girl so much,” he said, “what are you going to do?”

Dorothy and Fred Squires display an apostolic blessing from Pope Francis marking their 70th wedding anniversary. (Courtesy Squires Family)

Their six children attended Catholic school and were regular attendees at Mass with Dorothy every Sunday, while Fred attended Lutheran services alone. And on major Christian feasts, the entire lot of them would go to both churches, joining Fred at St. John’s after the Catholic Mass. Their children also participated in other facets of St. John’s, including the youth group.

“Going to both (churches) wasn’t always fun for the kids,” said Susan Cioni, the Squires’ second eldest. “But I think it was advantageous to us. It always made for good conversation.”

It was common for dinner conversations to center around religion, with family members often discussing Martin Luther and his Ninety Five Theses, Cioni said. There were never arguments about religion, she said, just good, open and honest discussion.

Dorothy, who jokingly calls Fred a “stubborn Lutheran,” never expected her husband to convert to Catholicism, despite their long marriage and raising their children Catholic.

“We have respect for both religions,” she said.

Cioni said her parents’ dedication to their own faiths and each other impressed her. She learned to value others even when there may be disagreements.

“I respect the fact that differences make things exciting and interesting,” she said.

While they are proud that they have managed to stay true and rooted to their own personal faith background, Fred said what he hopes for most is that his children know how much he and Dorothy have loved each other throughout the years.

“After the excitement of being married for six months wears off, you have to stick with it,” he said. “I hope that there was no question about our love for each other or love for them.”

Anna Jones

Anna Jones

Anna Jones is a contributing writer to the Catholic Review. A journalist by training, Anna has previously written for the Catholic Transcript in the Diocese of Hartford in Connecticut as well as several daily publications. Anna, her husband and young son are parishioners of St. Mary of the Mills in Laurel.