Fifty years ago, their marriage was arranged in the Fiji Islands, where they were joined in holy matrimony at St. Agnes Church in the small town of Samabula near the capital city of Suva.
This weekend, Joseph and Maya Charan --- fourth generation ethnic Indians who immigrated to Southern California from Fiji with their three children in 1975 --- plan to be among more than 100 couples attending World Marriage Day Mass celebrations Feb. 9 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Introduced to each other through Maya’s friend’s family who thought their nephew and their daughter’s friend would make a good match, the couple --- who lived in different areas of the island --- met in chaperoned visits for nearly a year before marrying on Jan. 11, 1964.
The match that became a marriage was celebrated on the Charans’ 50th anniversary date last month, when they arranged to receive a blessing from their parish associate priest, Father Malcolm Ambrose, at St. Clare in Santa Clarita.
“I wanted it done on that day,” Joseph, 73, told The Tidings in the living room of the couple’s Canyon Country home with Maya, 68, seated by his side on a sofa near a wall decorated with a Divine Mercy image of Christ. They are looking forward to the World Marriage Day celebration at the Cathedral as another blessing upon their marriage, which they say has been nurtured and strengthened by their Catholic faith.
“People say, ‘The family that prays together stays together,’ and that was our motto,” said Joseph. “To this day, we still pray together. We work as a team in decision making. We discuss everything together before we make any decision. We took our children to church together, and the evening prayers kept them together.”
“We used to say the rosary every day with the children before dinner, after Joseph came home [from work] and before I left” for a factory job sewing backpacks from 5 p.m. to midnight, added Maya.
When he first arrived in L.A., Joseph couldn’t find an office accounting job like he had back home in the civil service, so he took a job in a machine shop as a tool crib attendant sweeping floors and cleaning work sites. After six months, he found clerical work, first in the insurance industry and later in the central business office for Tenet Hospitals in Alhambra. He’s been retired for the last eight years.
Both Joseph and Maya say keeping the channels of communication open has been very important in their marriage. “Just listen to each other,” advises Maya.
“She’s the smart one,” said Joseph. “If I’m even a little agitated, she stays calm. Because of work pressures and things like that, she understands. She’s the best partner I could have ever had. I was very fortunate.”
Maya adds that the three parishes they have attended over the years --- St. Genevieve in Panorama City, St. Didacus in Sylmar for 25 years and St. Clare for the last five years --- have all been very supportive to their immigrant family. According to the couple, attending church and saying daily prayers have given the family gifts of peace, harmony and family unity in addition to fostering understanding and respect toward one another.
“We took a [marriage] vow, so we kept it,” explained Joseph. “That was our commitment, and when the family came along, it made our marriage even stronger.”