Through the years, CatholicMatch.com has followed many paths to get
CatholicMatch is currently enjoying its 10th anniversary and prepares to welcome the 500,000th member! Already this year, an in-line chat system, which was developed and implemented in house, has been launched to rave reviews. This type of chat is a first for ANY singles website, and demonstrates CatholicMatch's continuing commitment to being a leader in technology and innovation. Throughout the rest of this year, the plan is to focus on "Grow in Faith, Fall in Love," the site's brand image. In addition, some of the features that will be rolling out soon, to continue to assist you in making that special connection, include piloting a moderated chat room, guided communication, and better matching.
Through April of 2008, 4marks.com, the social networking site for Catholics which worked in conjunction with CatholicMatch.com, continued to grow and take on a life of its own. It was at that point when it was decided each site had unique requirements and opportunities, and that each membership base should be treated separately so as to continue to flourish. CatholicMatch would continue to develop as the premiere website for single Catholics, while 4marks.com would focus on social networking and content sharing for the broader Catholic community. The separation allowed for a renewed focus on serving single Catholics at this site, which quickly resulted in new features such as the QuiztiqueTM personalized interview and video profiles.
In early 2005, CatholicMatch began to see member coordinated events organizing in cities across the land, dubbed "CM Get Togethers" by those attending. We even hosted our own "St Patrick's Day Bowling Social," which came together quite nicely. Buoyed by the popularity of those live events, and the growth of social networking (primarily driven by MySpace at the time), a plan was hatched to marry the traditional CatholicMatch singles site with social networking features. The challenge that laid ahead was for all Catholics, not just single Catholics, to be able to benefit from the events calendar, the catechetical programs and the community-building aspects of the site. The resulting solution to that challenge was 4marks.com.
In the most significant public change to the site since its inception, St.Raphael.net changed to CatholicMatch.com. The change became necessary as the site grew for one main reason: the difficulty people encountered in spelling and remembering the domain name. Members were misspelling it in e-mails to the site, in success stories, even in the community rooms. Users would inadvertently type the dot com version of the domain name and end up at a skin care site. Or, when talking on the phone with vendors, the management team noticed them asking for a spelling of the domain, and even then not getting to the site. The new name had an important additional advantage as well: it clearly stated the site's mission, which is to match Catholics for friendships, marriages and religious vocations. St. Raphael still lived on with the old logo prominently factored into the CatholicMatch design, but an exciting new era was dawning.
St. Raphael.net again pushed the envelope, both in design and technology a year later. In a radical shift, the structure of the site was modified to enable easier navigation with a more pleasant user experience; the management team worked hard to develop applications that would allow more dynamic Catholic content to flow; the site was moved to new high-speed servers and the e-mail system was improved. Numerous technological upgrades were implemented, with a major one, chat functionality, allowing unprecedented access in communication.These upgrades managed to more than double membership over the next year. The revolutionary changes sent a clear signal that St. Raphael would not only set the standard for the Catholic market, but the secular one as well.
St. Raphael.net's growth exceeded even the expectations of its owners, and the team kept pace by implementing technical upgrades and design changes. A few of the more notable adjustments at this time included: adding extensive statistics so that visitors could have a better idea of who was using the site; contemporary photos were added giving the site a more welcoming feel and most importantly, an aggressive marketing plan, with search engine and pay-per-click spending, was employed. These marketing actions were key to growing the site and offering members many more options.
Nearly two years after the initial launch, major changes took place which helped to guide St. Raphael.net into the mainstream of the Catholic online world. Jason and Brian teamed up with Mike Lloyd to expand a small website development company they had started called Acolyte Media. Though Acolyte began as a moonlighting endeavor, the trio quickly realized they would need to commit full-time attention to make it a success. Unfortunate circumstances ensued as the dot.com bust changed the economic environment, necessitating the need for the group to discover alternate ways to generate revenue. Supplementing their development work with website ownership became the chosen strategy, with St. Raphael.net the natural choice. The first fee-based version of the site launched in March of 2001.
CatholicMatch.com started under the name of St. Raphael.net, with an idea and a modest mission. Jason LaFosse and Brian Barcaro launched the apostolic website with the best of intentions, keeping costs to a minimum while operating the service completely free of charge out of their apartment. The two aspired to create a community environment, not just a meat-market style dating service. The concept was two-fold: they wanted a place where men and women could meet, form relationships and unite in marriages, along with a comfortable site where those discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life would flourish. It is that moral, community-oriented philosophy that still sets CatholicMatch apart today.