By Andrew Ehrkamp
News Editor

Rick Lewis is Catholic. His wife Anne is a member of the United Church.

Their wedding may not be a big deal today, but 50 years ago it made headlines in the Western Catholic Reporter. The Lewis’ wedding on April 22, 1967 at St. Andrew’s Catholic Parish in Edmonton was the first ecumenical wedding in Western Canada.

“We didn’t realize until after our honeymoon when we saw the story in the WCR,” Rick said. “We didn’t have any idea what we were doing. We just wanted to get married.”

They chose Edmonton as the city because that’s where Anne’s relatives live. Rick was a newly minted RCMP constable stationed in Whitecourt, but his family lived in Winnipeg.

The location was the easy choice. The church was a bit more challenging.

“I definitely wanted a Catholic wedding,” Rick said. “And it was agreed by Anne’s family that an Anglican minister would partake in the wedding.”

They were married by the pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish, Father Basil Butts. Anne arranged to have Canon A.E. Thain of St. Peter’s Anglican Church assist. Their marriage was in accordance with Vatican rules on mixed marriages, which were only one year old at the time. A non-Catholic minister could offer the exhortation, but couldn’t take part.

Prior to the wedding, Anne took lessons at St. Andrew’s Parish, with the intention of being baptized into the Catholic faith. However in the end she declined to make that move.

Today, Rick and Anne Lewis, both 72 and retired, alternate between the Catholic and United churches in Kamloops. It’s the city where they raised their family and plan to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

The Lewises raised their three children as Catholic. However, once they were teens, the kids were free to choose their own religion.

Looking back, Rick said his marriage to Anne is not as unique now as it was 50 years ago. He’s even softened his own personal view.

“It’s more relaxed in today’s society. People were brought up differently back then. Years ago Catholics  preferred to have their kids marry Catholics,” Rick said.

“Living a good Christian life is as significant today as going to church on a regular basis. Would you rather go to church and think about fishing, or go fishing and think about God?”

The Lewises’ secret to 50 years of marriage? “Respect and communication are important,” Rick said. “Don’t give up. It’s too easy for couples today to say ‘I don’t want this anymore’ and walk away.” 

His other tip: “Just say ‘Yes, dear. Yes, dear. Yes, dear!”