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Couples reaffirm choice of a lifetime at Valentine's Vow Renewal

They've been married just over two years, but Andy and Seanne Herbick have already exchanged vows three times, most recently Sunday morning at their alma mater, Loyola University Maryland, with about 160 other steadfast lovebirds.

Standing in the same stone chapel where they married the first time and listening to the same priest, the Hampden couple reiterated that, yes, they were still in it for good, bad, sickness, health and till death do they part. Since married life has quickly tried them on all of that — including, on the good front, the birth of their son P.J., who's now 13 months old — the words, if anything, ring truer.

"On the way here, I started to cry in the car thinking it was four years ago tomorrow that we met," said Seanne Herbick, a 42-year-old speech pathologist, remembering that first date at Holy Frijoles with Andy, who's 41 and an accountant and photographer. "It's just a powerful moment. We've only known each other four years, but we've been through a lot together."

Loyola's Valentine's Vow Renewal, now in its third year, started as a collaboration between the university's alumni relations office and the campus ministry. The university was looking for a way to keep alumni in touch with the school while spreading the world that the Alumni Memorial Chapel, with its cathedral ceilings and striking stained glass, was available for weddings.

"We say God is love," said the Rev. Frank Nash, S.J., Loyola's alumni chaplain, who presided over the ceremony. "All of these couples who pledged their undying love? That's God."

About 80 couples stood face-to-face Sunday — a few married as long as 50 years, some barely together one. Some were bald, others graying. Some bounced lightly, trying to quiet fidgeting babies in their arms. No one had dusted off gowns or tuxedos — there were a lot of slacks and sweaters for the second time around.

Salvatore and Robin Lenzo looked deep into each other's eyes, seeming to forget the two small boys squirming between them in matching ski sweaters. When they kissed to reseal the deal, their older son, 4-year-old Salvatore, clapped.

The couple met seven years ago playing softball in a city league, drawn to each other as slightly older members of a young team. Two years later Salvatore Lenzo proposed, smitten by a woman who allowed him to just be himself.

Though their life is crazy, with youngsters and full-time jobs — she works at Johns Hopkins University while he manages information systems at Loyola's business school — they wanted to be there Sunday to show they wouldn't change a thing.

"We're liking where we are," Salvatore Lenzo said, "even though I had to take my son to the bathroom twice during one Mass."

Gino and Margaret Gemignani, who celebrated their 50th anniversary in September, also pledged to have and hold each other for at least a few more.

"For us, it's full circle to be here," Gemignani said, as his wife added, "May the Lord bless us with good health to have more years with our family and good friends."

Baltimore natives, the two met in grade school and but started dating in high school, discovering a spark at a Friday evening Catholic youth event. Once they both finished college, they married.

Three daughters and five grandchildren later, Margaret Gemignani says she's grown closer to her husband, bonding over their growing family. He thinks faith has been the "glue" binding them happily together.

Gemignani, a Loyola trustee, said 1962 was good for him — he married his "Nurse Peg" and went to work for construction firm Whiting-Turner, where he's now vice president.

"Nothing's changed since," he said. "I'm still in love with both of them."

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