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COVID-19 pandemic cannot stop true love, weddings

By LYNN VENHAUS
Contributing writer

After their engagement last December, Amy Krebs and Grant Camillo started planning their wedding for July 11 at St. Dominic’s Church in Breese.

Then a global pandemic in March changed everyone’s plans.

After a period of closure, the Diocese of Belleville released new public health rules for marriage preparation and the sacrament of Matrimony.

With those guidelines in hand, the wedding took place.

However, getting there meant resorting to an ever-changing playbook.

“In March, we were still hopeful,” Amy said. “We thought it would go away or not be as big of a deal as it turned out to be. There was so much uncertainty. There would be a new obstacle we had to get over. We had Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. We tried to look on the bright side.

“We’re very thankful that people got to come to Mass and share the sacrament,” Amy continued. “It was a unique experience. We’ll have stories for our children.”

After their engagement, Sharon Ripplinger and Tom Schmitt hadn’t picked a date yet. But after conferring with Father James Deiters at St. Clare of Assisi Church, O’Fallon, everything fell into place for a Sept. 19 wedding six weeks later.

“We have been very, very blessed,” Sharon said. “When you wonder how things come together, somebody upstairs might have something to do with it.”

A tale of two weddings
Amy Krebs of Breese and Grant Camillo of Highland met while attending Mater Dei High School when she was a sophomore and he was a senior.

In college, she studied nursing and he joined the Army. They continued their long-distance relationship for five and a half years and became engaged while he was stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. They now live in Savannah, and Amy works as a registered nurse on a medical-surgical floor at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Savannah.

While preparing for marriage, St. Kateri Tekakwitha pastor Father Steve Beatty, a nephew of Amy’s father, Dennis Krebs, told Amy to call the rectory each week for the latest updates on new limits and new restrictions.

“We could only have 100 at the Mass. Everyone had to be in masks and keep a pew between them. The bridal party did not have to wear a mask if they were up near the altar, but if they went into the church congregation, they had to wear a mask,” she said.
“I was very nervous, but my biggest thing was God knows best,” she said. “We were going to make it a good experience, no matter what.”

Amy was also nervous because she worked on the coronavirus floors during this period.

“I made sure before the wedding that I would get tested for COVID-19,” she said, noting she was tested on Tuesday, had the results Wednesday and the wedding was Saturday.

Another situation was that Grant had to apply to be off for the wedding, and they did not get that permission from the Army until near the end of June.

“It was stressful. Once we got the approval, God really helped us be at peace,” Grant said.

For the reception at the Breese American Legion, they had to pare down the invitations from 364 to an even smaller list—50—making sure they had “the people that needed to be there, the people who wanted to be there,” Amy said.

“You still miss the people who could not be there. Everybody understood and was very sweet and so supportive. That meant a lot to us,” she said. “I did choke up when I turned and saw only the masks, and not smiling faces in the pews.”

Getting down to the basics was a lesson too.

“Sometimes we get carried away with things that aren’t necessary,” she said. “We just wanted it to be a beautiful experience. We had graces upon graces of God. The wedding turned out intimate and small. It was the perfect day, it really was. It was just uncontainable joy.”

A time for Joy
Sharon Ripplinger and Tom Schmitt of Swansea reunited after their 60th high school reunion in 2016.

They both went to Immaculate Conception Grade School in Centreville, now closed, and Cahokia High School, and followed different paths that led to moving away.

Sharon became a nurse, and when she married, moved to Brooklyn, New York, with her new husband in 1964. Tom became an engineer and would eventually land in Harrisburg, Pa. He and his first wife had five children, but she tragically died of cancer in her 40s. Later, he remarried and divorced.

Divorced after 13 years of marriage, Sharon later returned to the metro-east in 2010 and joined St. Clare Parish, O’Fallon, which her family attended.
She did not attend the multi-class reunion but Tom, who never missed a gathering, did. He ran into Sharon’s sister, who gave him Sharon’s phone number.

A coffee date to look over reunion photos led to the couple getting together when Tom would be in the area visiting his daughter, who lives in Edwardsville.

Their second date?

Midnight Mass at St. Clare Church on Christmas 2016. They got engaged in February of last year.

“I had said ‘never again,’” but here I am,” Sharon said, laughing.

After enduring rounds of good-natured kidding—‘Are you two ever getting married?’—Tom surprised Sharon by asking Father Deiters about a wedding date while dining outdoors this summer.

“Our pastor was so helpful. He told us what we needed to do, what papers to collect. He and parish secretary Marcia Fix were great,” she said. “Piece by piece, everything fell into place.”

Then, suddenly, the metro-east was forced to operate under tighter COVID-19 restrictions, including reducing crowd size, which affected the reception.
The planned guest list of 75 had to be pared down to 25 at the O’Fallon Station. So the couple pivoted to using the church-covered pavilion next to St. Clare’s parish garden. Their caterer made box lunches and the baker who made the wedding cake put pieces into boxes.

The 70 guests could either drive-through and pick up the food to take home or dine on the picnic tables, using safety protocols, Sharon said.
“It all worked out beautifully. We took all the precautions. I had sanitizer on every picnic table. People wore masks, except for eating,” she said.

Sharon’s four nieces who live in the area were invaluable help. However, with other family members in different states, they were not able to attend.
“That was sad,” she said.

Nevertheless, the wedding brought joy to family and friends.

“Just the support you get from everybody. A woman at church told me ‘we all need something to be happy about now.’ And she’s right, we do. Through the grace of God, it went as well as it did,” she said.

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