"I was heartbroken. I was failing in the big leagues." That was 26-year-old Jann Elaine's assessment of herself after the first contacts she forged on CatholicMatch didn't work out. Jann Elaine had overcome much hardship in her life. She was a victim of child molestation and then later in life fell into a series of bad relationships. "Although my motives had been pure each time at the beginning, chastity was a burden that was eventually discouraged by my significant others," she candidly admitted. One day she woke up and realized that her life, as she put it, "had turned dark. Very dark. And by the grace of God, I decided to turn back to His Church and leave my past behind."
Jann Elaine was determined to have a healthier dating life. She wanted to meet like-minded Catholics, but her parish and the surrounding area in Idaho did not offer any prospects. She was encouraged to go on CatholicMatch, and after prayer, she decided to join.
Although her first connections didn't work out, Joshua, 33-years-old and living in Italy, messaged her. He was well-traveled--a Nigerian citizen and officially a resident of London. Jann Elaine was open to an international relationship--the excitement of it even attracted her, and from Joshua's pictures, she found him attractive as well. "Both of us decided that distance wouldn't be a factor in the long run. We had more significant terms to align on," Jann Elaine said, recalling how things unfolded after the initial get-to-know-you messages.
Joshua's love for God, the Catholic Church and his deep devotion to Our Lady both astounded Jann Elaine and made her interested in knowing more. "I thought 'Wow, I want to marry this man,'" she said. "I never experienced falling in love so profoundly and completely." They shared a common upbringing in large families, shared desires for the future and they were each up front and honest with each other about past mistakes. "We talked about our faith, prayers, church activities and lots of other things," Jann Elaine said. They connected on deep questions, like a love for the Holy Eucharist and a commitment to modesty.
The relationship had gone from messages to video chats, and now it was time to meet face-to-face. Both freely admitted their anxiety about it, and in May 2013, Joshua flew to the United States. Jann Elaine had envisioned how she wanted to greet him at the airport, but when he got there, she was frozen. "He strolled over and demanded a hug. I laughed and it was back to normal," she recalled. "He had brought me flowers and chocolate."
During Joshua's time in the States, they attended Mass together, said morning and night prayers, and prayed the Rosary. Jann Elaine admitted to having every possible kind of fear during the visit. "I feared that things would fall apart or that he would push me to be intimate. I feared that things would get dull or that he wouldn't fit in with my life or my family friends. I was so very wrong." Joshua assured Jann Elaine that her physical boundaries would be respected, and that he in turn expected the same. A man of principle, gentleness and strength, he won the glowing approval of Jann Elaine's father. "As a daddy's girl, I was overjoyed," Jann said.
Before Joshua returned home, he asked Jann Elaine to come and visit him in London in September. So come September, Jann Elaine got on the plane and made her first trip to Europe. Joshua shared with her more of Igbo culture--his Nigerian tribe, and "treated me like a princess." Joshua was a chivalrous gentleman. One morning after Mass, they were together under a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was there that Joshua proposed marriage and Jann Elaine, who had only dared hope, joyfully accepted. At least it's assumed she did--"I was crying and smiling so much we can't remember if I even said yes," she recalled.
When they video-chatted with Jann's family back home, it turned out her family wasn't nearly as surprised as she was. Jann Elaine and Joshua were married this past Saturday. "The church has been wonderfully encouraging with helping us to prepare," Jann said. "We had a gracious Deacon and completed our marriage prep classes in our respective parishes. The toughest part has been traveling, the legal requirements, the visas, etc, but as my father says, 'If God wills it to happen, it will happen, seemingly and effortlessly.'"
It has been a long journey for Joshua and Jann Elaine, marked by courageous life changes that set the table for their ultimate happiness.