Editor’s note: Welcome to all the CatholicMatch members currently gathered in San Antonio for the 10th National Conference for Single Catholics! NCSC Director Anastasia Northrop, who is also a member of CatholicMatch, took the time to field a few questions about the popular event for “Faith, Hope & Love.”
What was the inspiration for the National Conference for Catholic Singles?
Since 2000 I’ve been working with John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as part of my family’s media apostolate Our Father’s Will Communications (now OFWC Media), and by 2004 I’d heard several speakers address the issue of how you can live the theology of the body as a single person. I wanted to get all those speakers under one roof and gather singles to hear them.
Also, a friend of mine was a big proponent of singles ministry and he had been encouraging me to do an event for singles as well.
When was the first?
The first conference was held in Denver in 2005. As it was the first national event for singles, we didn’t know what to expect and were hoping for 250 people. Instead we had to start a waiting list and maxed out at 400.
How has it evolved over the years?
Well, the first year it was just Friday night and Saturday. But people liked the atmosphere and fellowship so much they wanted it to be much longer. Some suggested a week!
Of course, that’s not too practical for most folks, so we just extended it through early Sunday afternoon and included post-conference activities so that those who can stay longer could socialize afterward and see the local sights.
This year it’s in San Antonio, so the Alamo and world-famous River Walk are some of the attractions. But the basics remain the same: great talks, time for prayer and lots of time to socialize, meet new people and make new friends!
What kind of impact does NCSC have?
There have been so many of people who have experienced God and their faith in a deeper way at the conference, and some who have come back to the sacraments.
There are even a couple stories of Protestants who have attended and the conference was instrumental in their becoming Catholic!
Others have said it changed their lives. I remember one woman who told me it was the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Another woman was so influenced by the message of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that she broke up with her boyfriend, who was a fallen-away Catholic, because she wanted a marriage as God designed it to be.
He ended up learning about the Theology of the Body and coming back to the church. They are now married, are teaching others about John Paul II’s message and have been promoting the NCSC ever since!
Any romances kindled at the conference?
Yes, indeed! And from those romances at least five or six marriages – that we know of. I’m sure there are more, but they don’t always write to tell us. It is certainly encouraging and rewarding to hear about them though!
That said, I wouldn’t recommend coming just to meet your future spouse; I make no guarantees in that department. Note that I’m still single 10 conferences later.
But the talks are always inspiring, God is always working and many people have made lasting friendships with folks of both sexes, so the fellowship is always fruitful!
What’s been your attendance record so far?
Generally 300-400 people attend the conference, but at the NCSC 2007 in San Diego we had more than 550. It’s been held in Denver, Chicago, San Diego, Clearwater Beach and San Antonio.
The furthest-traveled attendees – three of them! – came all the way from Santiago, Chile! We generally have attendees from at least 20 different states, Canada, and Mexico. This year we have someone coming all the way from Colombia!
We’re expecting 350, so it’ll be a lot of fun as usual.
Tell me briefly about the format of the conference.
The main parts of the conference are the talks, the times for prayer and the social events. Friday night’s keynote will be Mary Beth Bonacci, who many probably know from her valuable articles here on CatholicMatch. Her talk will be followed by a reception and an evening of socializing.
Saturday includes talks, Mass, meals together and ends with a dance. Sunday we’ll have a closing talk and Mass with Bishop Cantú, auxiliary bishop of San Antonio. Following the official close of the conference, we’ll have the post-conference activities, which are always a great way to relax and enjoy the company of other NCSCers.
You’ve really bolstered the image and visibility of single Catholics.
Sometimes the word “singles” gets a bad rap. Early on it was suggested that I change the name of the conference, but what would I change it to?
Instead I’ve worked to develop a solid reputation for the conference as a quality, fun-filled, uplifting event where attendees can experience and understand their faith, learn more about dating, relationships, masculinity and femininity, hear from those who understand the struggles we singles face, and meet others who want to do the same.
Based on the folks who come back each year and the testimonies of the attendees, it definitely has been a success!
As one repeat attendee – fourth time now – explained:
“I was reluctant at first because I didn’t know anyone, but I am so glad I went! It was totally cool to be in a same room with other Catholic singles talking about issues that affect us. The speakers were top notch, and the Masses were awe inspiring, especially during Eucharistic adoration…Even if you are going without knowing anyone there at first, I promise that you will have a great time and make some great new friends! After attending these conferences, I have had a newfound appreciation of what it means to be Catholic and that there is much more to our faith and what is has to offer than just going to Mass every Sunday.”