While some people are accustomed to spending Valentine’s Day with a spouse or a partner, there are many people who have never celebrated the holiday because they have chosen to live a life of singleness in accordance with their religion.
For as far back as East Rockaway resident, RuthAnne Gytalo can remember, she said, she always had a dream of becoming a nun in her future.
At 7-years-old, she said she always found time to make believe she was one, by putting sweaters over her head and pretending to be dressed like a nun.
Gytalo, who went to all Catholic schools as a child and young adult, said she was raised in a very religious Catholic home. In her youth, she said she was mesmerized and inspired by the nuns at her schools and church, who shared with her how they had a deep and loving relationship with their religion.
“I wanted to be just like the nuns and I related well with them because there was never a time in my entire life when I didn’t connect to Jesus Christ,” Gytalo said.
Now, a little over five decades later, Gytalo said her dream came true because she has been a nun for 54 years, serving as an active member of a community of sisters who belong to the Sisters Servants of Immaculate Heart of Mary, a congregation based in Scranton, Pa.
Gytalo, who is the principal at St. Raymond’s Catholic School in East Rockaway, said she has been serving at the school and at St. Raymond’s Church as a nun for more than 30 years, where she has lived in the convent that is provided by the parish behind the school.
Gytalo said that part of being a Sister, is remaining single and abstinent her entire life.
Although she has never celebrated Valentine’s Day, Gytalo said she thinks that Feb. 15 is a day worth acknowledging, which is Singles Awareness Day — a day of celebrating different forms of love outside of romantic relationships, which is recognized on the National Today Calendar.
While Gytalo said she has chosen a life of singleness and life-long celibacy for the purpose of devoting herself fully to maintaining a loving relationship with her God, Lynbrook residents Charles and Mayy Levato have a different love story.
Nearly 70 years ago, when Charles, and Mayy were in their late 20s, they both attended a church dance gathering in the Bronx, where they met for the first time and instantly felt attracted to one another.
On the night that they first met, Charles said his heart was beating fast when he approached Mayy for the first time to ask her to dance at the church gathering. However, once he asked her, he said all his shyness disappeared and they danced the night away. That night, they both said they felt an instant connection.
Now, the two, who are both 92-years-old and have been married for 67 years, are currently living in the Atria Lynbrook retirement home, where they recently celebrated Valentine’s Day together.
The couple said that after spending the morning of the holiday together by attending Catholic church, they couldn’t help but spend the remainder of the day recounting all the memories that they’ve shared together over the years.
“She wasn’t a very good dancer, but it was very close to love at first sight,” said Charles with a laugh, as he recalled the church dance where he met his future wife. “No matter what we’ve been through over the years, we have always managed to stay together and work things out.”
Mayy had a different feeling upon meeting her future husband.
“It was love at first sight for me,” Mayy said, smiling. “He was always so patient with me and he has always done what a gentleman should do, which is to serve and help me.”
Although the couple said that over the years they have hardly ever argued, they noted that they believe the secret to a long lasting romantic relationship is having compassion when disagreements arise.
“We stayed together wherever we went and that made our union stronger,” Mayy said, adding that she and her husband raised four children together with very little arguments over how to raise them. “I love my husband because he was always so open with me.”
Charles also offered his opinion on how to make a relationship last.
“We are both not stubborn, so we have never had an argument that lasted more than five minutes,” he said. “Mayy is a wonderful person, a good cook and a great listener.”
Charles added that understanding one another is also vital.
“Once you share what you have to say with your spouse, you should always listen to them by hearing them out and only then can you both match your thoughts and perspectives together through compromise,” he said. “The key to a successful romantic relationship is for both spouses to always let their thoughts intertwine nicely.”