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A Match Made in Media


by Mary Rose Bacani & Richard Valenti

Sometimes real life is better than a script. Here’s the “plot” of our engagement:

June 2003. Beautiful Filipina walks into the fledgling Canadian Catholic television station called Salt + Light. Short, handsome Italian guy grudgingly films her on-camera audition as television host. She thinks he’s rude. He thinks she’s a job-stealer. (His friend is applying for the same position.)

Three months later, she’s hosting the Salt + Light Magazine show, which he’s editing. They’re forced to work together. But they can’t stand each other.

January 2004. He invites her to watch Finding Nemo. She squints her eyes in disbelief and thinks he is the ultimate nerd. Curious, nonetheless, she accepts.

Mary Rose Bacani & Richard Valenti

Mary Rose Bacani & Richard Valenti

Five years later, they are looking for the right engagement ring.

In October 2009, they get married.

For the past seven months, they’ve been juggling work with the added dimension of married life. They’re the third couple to have married while working at Salt + Light – or, as the CEO Father Thomas Rosica now calls it, Salt + Love.

The story is still being written. Here’s a script from a recent day at the office:

Richard: Mary Rose’s cubicle is five feet away from my editing suite. It takes me one-and-a-half seconds to get to her. But do we work together all the time? No. Since we got married, we’ve only worked together on one show for three days. But Mary Rose is always worried....

Mary Rose: Well, it’s because I don’t want people to think that he spends more time editing my projects. But honestly, Richard gives 200% to any project he thinks is great, whether I’m a part of it or not. It’s just more natural to assume that Richard will make himself available for anything that involves me.

Richard: Which is not always so bad, actually. I look at some of these things as opportunities. For example, when Mary Rose stayed in the office all weekend to host the coverage of the Pope’s visit to Malta last month, I stayed with her. But I was also editing my own project. There’s that flexibility and opportunity for me to do my work while supporting her at the same time.”

Off-camera voice: Is there ever any competition between the two of you?

Mary Rose: Well, we have two different roles, really, and I’m so proud that Richard can do many things other than his main role as editor, like camerawork....

Richard: And photography and graphic design...

Mary Rose: OK, fine, and so....

Richard: There's also technical support, animation and compositing...

Mary Rose: Right. And I’m a producer. Which means I create shows. I’m one of maybe eight or ten producers who...

Richard: Are replaceable unlike me.

Mary Rose: Be quiet, Richard.

Off-camera voice: Do you fight about work and bring the hostility home?

Richard: Three months into our marriage, we started to feel that work was getting in our way. We constantly argued, and we brought our arguments home. And then Mary Rose would get upset about my bad habits, like not cleaning up my clothes or watching too much TV. I mean, we’re both in our 30s and quite stuck in our ways. I remember when she broke down in tears in front of my mother...

Mary Rose: Yes, and we agreed that one of us had to leave work to “save” our marriage. Maybe it had to be me because Richard is more valuable to Salt + Light. But maybe it should be Richard because he would earn much more money outside of Salt + Light anyway. Then I went on a Lenten retreat for young adults and Richard started looking for a spiritual guide. And then slowly, God healed whatever wounds we had. But that was a really, really rocky start to our marriage.

Off-camera voice: Do you ever get tired of seeing each other 24/7?

Mary Rose: First of all, I have to say that Salt + Light is a unique place. Richard and I not only work there, we also breathe its vision and mission. We love our Catholic faith and Salt + Light surrounds itself with people who give life to that faith. Great men and women – cardinals, bishops, important figures in the Church – come in and out of our office in Toronto and leave something of themselves. The young people who work there are great role models for us. So it’s like Richard and I are being fed from the same banquet every day. And it’s wonderful.

Richard: And come on, how often can a man sneak kisses from his wife during the day (when he’s on break, of course)! And how often can he prepare a hot lunch for her! Big pluses right there.

Mary Rose: Some people can say we’re forced to be together every day. But we say we’re blessed, really blessed, to have the opportunity to grow together in faith and love, 24/7.

Find out more about Salt + Light Television, where Mary Rose and Richard work, by going towww.saltandlighttv.org. And watch out for next week’s column, in which Mary Rose and Richard reveal how they deal with their own family of wild Filipinos and loud Italians!