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The Rev. Andrew Ciferni ’64, left, answered the call when circumstances led to a rapid change of wedding plans for Sarah (Parbs) LeMay ’18 and Andrew LeMay ’18.

True to You in Good Times and in Bad

A wedding day in prospect. Sad news. A rapid change of plans. A marriage begins. A grievous loss. Finals to take. Life has had a lot to throw at pharmacy grad student Sarah (Parbs) LeMay ’18 since she and Andrew LeMay ’18 became engaged. And not all of the events came along in the usual order. This January day, for instance, the couple are meeting with the Rev. Andrew Ciferni ’64 for pre-marital counseling. It’s six weeks after their Dec. 7 wedding.

Sarah and Andrew were on course for a big wedding that should not even have taken place until this summer. They had asked Ciferni to marry them at Old St. Joe’s. Although Sarah’s father (another Andrew) was struggling with illness, the outcome was hopeful. That would all change with a new prognosis just before Thanksgiving; his doctors did not expect him to live till Christmas.

“When they told us, I just knew,” says Sarah. “He had to be there.”

While the young couple started making phone calls to family and friends, Ciferni, board chair at SNC, reached out to fellow trustee the Rev. Dan Felton. Felton, vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, put the Norbertine in touch with the chancery of the archdiocese of Milwaukee, setting the wheels in motion for a wedding in exceptional circumstances. Ciferni says, “I had never done this. But Dan Felton was right on top of it.”

A couple of days later, Andrew picked Sarah up after school. They applied for their license and got their wedding bands, then Sarah started asking friends about vendors. Her roommate, Paulina (Puskala) Fote ’17, had just gotten married quite close to the Parbs family parish, where the church of St. Columbkille offered wheelchair access. She could recommend florist, musicians, photographer – “Oh, we had the whole thing!” says Andrew.

Sarah’s veil had come in, but her dress had not. She ordered a substitute online and wore it with a pearl necklace that her father had given her mother. “Literally the day before the wedding, Andrew FaceTimed me from a DSW shoe outlet. He picked out my shoes!”

Andrew had already invited Ben Behling ’19 to be his best man. “Behling is a really good friend of all three of us,” says Ciferni. “And in addition, I needed a ride! On our way down, Ben’s phone rang. The track team wanted to come to the wedding. They already had two events that day – an alumni event and a meet in Oshkosh. I expected they’d arrive in jeans, whatever. No: shirt, tie, jacket, polished shoes. Coach Don Augustine came, Colin McKean [Class of 2005], the assistant coach. Liz LeCaptain [Class of 2016] was one of the readers. It was a real experience of the St. Norbert College family.

“One of the beauties of this wedding was the simplicity of it. You had this kind of sense that maybe this is the way weddings took place 100 years ago.”

The night before the wedding, Sarah and her mother had practiced with a wheelchair in the kitchen so both parents could walk her down the aisle together.

Mr. Parbs would die on his 55th birthday, Dec. 11, just four days after he saw his daughter wed.

Yes, the couple will complete their premarital counseling – a Church-stipulated condition of their “sprint wedding,” and an assurance of the best possible start, and support, for life’s race together.

And the August celebration? That’s still happening. Andrew says, “We had initially planned for about 250, 260 people and we had about 50 at our wedding, so there’s a lot of people we still want to be able to share that kind of day with.” And Sarah will wear the dress, now delivered: the one to which she first said yes.

March 17, 2020