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 | By Katie Camario

Living a Holy Marriage

Deacon Mike and Lisa Ryba have found the secret to a long and happy marriage: Leave it all at the foot of His cross.

"Everything revolves around the Lord. Praying with Him, spending time in silent prayer with Him as individuals and as a couple. It's everything to us," he said. "Our marriage has never been stronger.”

As the couple reflects on 35 years of marriage, they trace their love story to the Chicago workplace in the 1980s where it all began. 

“We were friends,” Lisa recalls fondly of their relationship. “We had a pretty strong friendship.” 

At the time, Lisa was a single mother of two, with her prior marriage ending in divorce. 

"Never in a million years did I think I would ever get divorced, never wanted to be divorced, never wanted to put my kids through a divorce,” recalls Lisa.

Through some counseling and discussions with a priest, however, she said she realized God didn’t want her to live in fear. 

“Jesus had a better plan for me and my life,” she said. 

This difficult experience led Lisa to pursue an annulment through the Church to ensure any future relationship would be built on a strong foundation of the Catholic faith. 

After the annulment was granted, Lisa and Deacon Mike wed in the Church the summer of 1988.

“The thing that I always remember from my wedding day is the first time I saw Lisa walking down the aisle. I had such a huge smile on my face, and she just looked so beautiful,” recalls Deacon Mike. 

In the decades that followed, the couple relied heavily on prayer and their parish community for guidance. 

“We have been strengthened in our marriage by people we have seen in ministry,” said Deacon Mike, who was ordained a deacon in 2016 and is now serving as the Parish Life Director at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz. 

Now empty nesters, the Rybas feel called to share the wisdom they've gained about the vocation of marriage with younger couples. They lead marriage preparation courses and present at various parish and diocesan programs, including the upcoming Together in Holiness Marriage Conference, which will be held on March 16, 2024, at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle.

Deacon Mike said the key is for couples to learn how to “grow closer to the Lord, to learn why a faith-filled marriage is so critical to its success, and to help get your spouse to heaven.”

This can be accomplished by agreeing as a couple to leave it all at the foot of His cross. 

“When we do so, and not make it about us but about Him and His sacrifice for us, our personal, professional, and ministerial lives are so much better,” said Deacon Mike. 

“The purpose of marriage is to get your spouse to heaven and making sure that you're doing everything you can for the other person,” he said. 

The Rybas say strong marriages rooted in faith create healthy families. By sharing their story of overcoming a divorce and building a love centered on the Lord, they hope to show others how a faith-centered union can stand the test of time.

Attend the Diocesan Marriage Conference

Together in Holiness Marriage Conference — March 16, 2024

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is partnering with the St. John Paul II Foundation to sponsor a special event for married and engaged couples titled, Together in Holiness. This conference is designed to strengthen marriages and includes dynamic presentations, childcare, Mass, adoration, reconciliation, and more. Speakers include Deacon Mike and Lisa Ryba, and Greg Schutte, a Catholic therapist and nationally known speaker. Couples will learn the Seven Habits of a Healthy Marriage.  

When: Saturday, March 16, 2024

Where: Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, St. Petersburg

How to Register: visit