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Local couple wed at the Vatican

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Newlyweds blessed by Pope Francis

By Corinne Westeman

As her father walked her down the aisle, Jacqueline Davis saw her groom, Sean Toomey, and 30 family members and friends surrounded by the beautiful artwork of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Rather than a local ceremony or a tropical destination wedding, Catholic couple Sean and Jacqueline Toomey were married at the Vatican on June 6. The honor is a rare one, as only four couples from the United States wed at the Vatican each year.

Jacqueline, an Evergreen native who works for the Jeffco school district, and Sean, a Denver firefighter, decided to look into marrying at the Vatican after Jacqueline’s parents, who are Evergreen residents, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in Rome last summer.

The Toomeys, who live in Golden, said the decision to apply to the Vatican and forgo a local ceremony was a mutual one. They said the application process was “very elaborate and complicated,” and required sending letters and testimonies from family, friends and their pastor to Vatican liaisons and other official parties.

“It’s a very selective process, because they don’t want people to think that it’s a ‘destination wedding’ location,” Sean said.

“The applications critically examined our intentions, which were based on our mutual Catholic faith,” Jacqueline said.

The Toomeys started the process last summer and did not receive confirmation until March. But even in the midst of their planning, they had faith that it would work out, they said.

“It was kind of a pipe dream at first,” Jacqueline said. “But as we started submitting things, it felt like it was meant to be. So when people called us, asking if they should book their flights, we told them to, even though we hadn’t gotten confirmation yet.”

Cor ad cor

The Toomeys, who met on a blind date set up by mutual friends, dated for three years before becoming engaged. As they discussed wedding plans, they decided on a traditional Catholic ceremony. But even as they applied to be married at the Vatican, they had no idea of the experiences that awaited them.

“I couldn’t have prepared myself for the experience in any way,” Sean said. “It was enriching on every level — spiritually, emotionally, etc.”

The day of the wedding, the couple and their guests prepared at their hotel outside Vatican City, then walked or drove to St. Peter’s Basilica. There were thousands of tourists on hand to see their entrance, following them and taking pictures.

But once the wedding party was in the Cappella del Coro — the Choir’s Chapel — nothing outside seemed to matter, they said.

“It’s hard to describe,” Sean said. “Even with all the tourists outside, once they closed the doors and the Mass started — in an instant, it was quiet and intimate. The rest of the world went away for that hour.”

The couple said that while the majority of the Mass was in English, they asked their pastor — who had traveled with them — to say some parts in Latin. The Vatican provided the musicians, who were incredibly talented, the couple said.

“It was like time stopped,” Jacqueline said. “All the irrelevant parts of life fell away, and it was very spiritually centering.”

In addition to their wedding, the couple had another “spiritually centering and humbling” experience when they met Pope Francis two days later amid a large audience. The couple then joined a group of newlyweds who received a special blessing from the pope.

“There were more than 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square with us,” Sean said.

“(The pope’s) overarching message was for peace in the world,” Jacqueline said.

After the general audience, the pope spent hours going around to each of the newlywed couples and praying over them. Eventually, he came to the Toomeys, and the two were able to shake his hand and receive a blessing.

“It was so calm and so simple,” Sean said of being prayed over.

“It was a very overwhelming but weird moment, but I felt very present,” Jacqueline said. “I think it makes you realize that while he’s very important, he is human.”

La Città Eterna

The couple spent a week in Rome celebrating their wedding with 30 of their friends and family members. They said it was “almost like the wedding lasted a whole week.”

“It was important to have that pilgrimage to Rome as the foundation of our lives together,” Jacqueline said, clarifying that the wedding party had the opportunity to visit historic and spiritually significant sites around Rome.

The couple said it was amazing to be surrounded by “that feeling of family and love,” and to see that so many were “willing to share this experience with us, even with the financial and time burden.”

“Everybody was involved in the wedding,” Jacqueline said. “Even though some of the guests weren’t Catholic, I think it was a spiritually strong experience for all of us.”

“We had basically an entire week to have one-on-one time with people,” Sean said. “Sometimes, you go to weddings, and you hardly talk to the bride and groom. I was glad we had so much time with our guests.”

Jacqueline commented that many of the wedding details, such as the date, were decided by the Vatican, and sometimes it was difficult to get their guests to “go with the flow.”

“The place where we were going to have our wedding rehearsal dinner — the kitchen caught fire,” she said. “So we had to find another place last-minute.

“But, otherwise, there were no major hiccups,” she continued. “In situations like that, you wonder how you will respond to (things going amiss). We just trusted it would all work out, and it did.”

The Toomeys opted not to have a wedding reception or any celebration once they returned to Colorado, because “there’s nothing we could do here that would add to our experience in Italy,” they explained.

The couple said that, when they first got engaged, many of their friends commented how stressful wedding planning would be. Yet even with the complicated application process, planning their nuptials was relatively stress-free, they said.

“We wanted our wedding to be about our faith, our love, and our family and friends,” Jacqueline said. “It’s easy to be very selfish (when wedding planning). But everyone played a part in our wedding, just as they did in our relationship. We tried to be selfless, because that’s what marriage is all about.”