Brian summed it up well when he told a few editors he was there as a lobbyist for single Catholics.
Lobby, he did - and quite persuasively.
The two of us were invited by the Catholic Press Association to give an hour and a half presentation this June at its annual gathering, which was held (conveniently) in Pittsburgh this year. We addressed editors and reporters, urging them to invest more effort into covering single Catholics, a group that is widely missing from their pages.
Brian and I began by outlining the historical shifts that led to a record number of single Catholics, more than 27 million unwed adults in the U.S. (That's 4 in 10 Catholics.)
Brian's next mission was to dispel the misconception that "single" is synonymous with "young adult." We did that by sharing the demographics of our wide-ranging membership, from 18-year-olds to nearly 500 80-year-olds - some widowed, some divorced, some never married.
Brian spoke eloquently about the widening gap between campus ministry and Pre-Cana. There isn't a formal process for the Church to reach out and engage singles, he pointed out, resulting in an eerily silent limbo. "Singles aren't lepers!" he said.
I shared results from a CatholicMatch poll asking how well your parish priest addresses singles issues and read a few comments accompanying the poll. Next I offered editorial tips on how to cover single Catholics, including examples from the CatholicMatch blog. (I showed off your Lenten reflections, the "12 Days Of Christmas" and the Father's Day photo gallery.)
It's not just a matter of developing singles-specific stories - though we welcome those! - it's as easy as adding an unmarried Catholic to a piece that's already in the works. Weave a single parent into a back-to-school story. Talk to a widowed or divorced Baby Boomer for a feature on empty nesters.
Brian concluded our presentation by highlighting the business implications of reaching the large, neglected audience of singles. For Catholic publications, it's a matter of mission and bottom line.
We were pleased to present before a packed room, who generated a lively discussion. I was thrilled by how many editors told me they are now planning more singles coverage. I'll be happy to work with them to find local sources and assist in any way. (And Brian and I will take our presentation on the road if we can inspire more Catholic organizations, parishes and publications to better serve singles.)
At the end of a long day, there was still buzz about covering singles. One communications director actually quoted our slide: "I loved the 4 in 10 part!" he said. To hear he'd memorized that stat melted my heart; I bought him a beer.
If you are interested in having Brian and I give a talk on singles in the Catholic church for your diocese or large conference, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.