A Lyrical Path

“We are gathered as people
Who are living the Word.”

June 18, 2016. Their friends are singing “In This Place,” a hymn that Valerie Arias and Joe Szopa heard many times during their years at LMU. Gryphon Circle, Sigma Chi and retreats filled much of their time, and now those friends surround them as they take their vows. LMU’s Chris de Silva, a composer himself, helped them select the music for Mass. The music always mattered: Their first date was to the Hollywood Bowl.

“All our lives are a mystery,
We seek not where they lead …”

They met in this place in 2000 as freshmen and reconnected in this place 11 years later at LMU’s alumni BBQ. Yet, as the ceremony continues at St. Timothy Catholic Church in West Los Angeles, they wonder at the paths that brought them together. She was raised in the California desert; he grew up in Alaska. After Valerie and Joe graduated in 2004, their careers took them in different directions. She took her communication studies degree into public relations and teaching; his film production degree led him into entertainment.

“We are asked now to trust You
And we know we must believe.”

It took 11 years from the time they met to get to that first date and four more to complete the courtship. As they say their vows, their time together begins. Ahead of them lay a move to Seattle, new jobs — freelance marketing and communications for Valerie and virtual reality development for Joe — and their life together. The reception is in Marina del Rey, within eyeshot of LMU’s letters on the bluff, reminding them …

“Of the power and spirit
That is here in this place.”