CatholicMatch has brought me the greatest joy and blessing of my life — my future husband. Paul Bailey and I have had a truly divinely-inspired courtship over the past year, and it brings tears of joy and gratitude to my eyes to announce to you that he and I were engaged in April. Our story is immensely detailed and beautiful, but I shall do my very best to be as concise (yet thorough) as possible in recounting the tale.
Paul had recently graduated from both the University of California-San Diego and the St. Patrick’s Evangelization School in Soho, London. Currently a firefighter/EMT for CalFire in Napa Valley, Calif., he joined CatholicMatch in December of 2008 after nearly two years of not dating anyone.
He was committed to meeting a woman who shared his values and, most importantly, his fervent devotion to the Church. His desire to marry a strong Catholic woman was strengthened during his year of intense catechetical study and prayer in London. Therefore, despite serious concerns about the online dating scene, he took a leap of faith and joined Catholic Match, subsequently speaking with and dating several wonderful young ladies whom he met on the site.
Meanwhile, as a 2007 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and 2007 Teach For America corps member, I was remarkably busy teaching my students at KIPP DREAM Prep in Houston, Texas. My commitment to my students superseded my desire to begin dating again for quite some time.
Finally, however, after Ash Wednesday Mass in 2008, I saw an ad for Catholic Match on the back of my church’s bulletin.
Like Paul, I had grave doubts about the efficacy of online dating, but something compelled me to create a profile. Thirty-three hours later, Paul sent me a string of messages through CatholicMatch. Having just joined the site hours earlier, I was amazed at how quickly he found me, and his statements that I “made him push the ‘pause’ button on life” and that he “simply must have a conversation” with me someday seemed to be quite strong!
I was also concerned about his location. “Napa Valley, California?!?!” I thought. “When would I ever go there?”
Just as I was about to delete his message, I paused. There was something about him that intrigued me, and I read further into his profile. It was like I was reading about myself. I couldn’t believe how similar we were; how deeply and fervently he loved the Church; how similar our families were; how we were both deeply committed to educational equity (he home-schools a child on his days off from firefighting); and, yes…how much he loved sushi, too.
I have to talk to him, I thought. But I certainly wasn’t going to give him my number, as he had requested. So I gave him my e-mail address instead.
He responded the next day with a lengthy and exquisitely-written e-mail about himself, punctuated with various questions about me. I wrote back that very night, sending him four long pages about myself as well.
On March 9, 2009, we talked on the phone for the first time for well over an hour and continued to correspond via text and email throughout the next week, after which point our conversations turned into nightly two to three-hour discussions on topics ranging from Catholic catechism to our hopes for our future families and everything in-between. Every Friday, I would send him what we fondly called “e-marathons,” which were 4-5 page e-mails about anything and everything. He would await his weekly correspondence with bated breath and would save it until he could read it during his down-time at the station on Friday night.
Within three weeks, we knew that we wanted to meet in-person. He immediately booked a ticket to Houston, and on Saturday, May 16, 2009, we met for the first time at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and when we saw each other, we knew.
We went to Mass together the following Sunday morning at my parish church in Houston. In two years of living there and being an active parishioner, I had never been asked to bring up the gifts. The moment we walked in together, an usher approached us and invited us to present the gifts at Mass that day. The Gospel reading was John: 13 — Love one another as I have loved you.” The priest ended his homily with the words, “So I ask you this: Look around you right now and ask yourself, Who is God calling me to love today?” Needless to say, we have chosen this Gospel to be read at our wedding next year.
During Paul’s visit, we went to Brazos Bend State Park and the Johnson Space Center, and we also attended Eucharistic Adoration. By the time he left for home the following Tuesday morning, we both knew that we had been called by God to love each other for the rest of our lives. I spent a week visiting Paul and his family two weeks later in June of 2009, after which time I had to move to Chicago to begin working for Teach For America’s national Recruitment Team. Despite the 2,000-mile distance (and 2-hour time difference, which was very difficult with both of our busy schedules), we saw each other once or twice a month and sustained our relationship through constant nightly prayer and open, honest communication. Additionally, our commitment to a chaste, holy, loving relationship has given us an unshakeable foundation for our future together.
In March of this year, I was offered a position to recruit from the West Coast, and my move to California has been planned for May 14th to begin the new job. Paul found me a darling townhome two miles from his house, and I will be living with a sweet girl whom he knows from town. I was thrilled that we would both be in the same city…but had no idea of what he had planned for this past weekend.
When I flew out to visit him on April 9th, we had plans to help me set up my new place. When he picked me up at the airport on Friday, we went to the San Francisco Zoo together and spent a wonderful day in the city. He seemed perfectly normal, and I suspected nothing. The next morning, he surprised me with a 5:00 a.m. hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley, and he was exceptionally excited for this adventure.
However, when we arrived at the drop-off site, we learned that the ride had been cancelled due to high winds. Though we were disappointed, we grabbed breakfast at a local roastery, went on a hike, took my new roommate to lunch and played a game of Scrabble.
Then, he started to act strangely. He abruptly informed me that he needed to help a friend whose car had broken down, and he asked me to get ready to go to a surprise dinner. Little did I know that he left to meet his mother at a local restaurant to pick up a private dinner for two and then to head up to a winery on a hill to set up a lovely table inside a wine cave for the two of us.
That night, he proposed to me. (Click here for a photo taken the night of their engagement.) Following our engagement, Paul wrote this e-mail and sent it off to our friends and family members:
To all loved ones, friends, and family,
It is with extreme pride and pure joy that I can finally let the cat out of the bag; Regina and I are ENGAGED!!! This last weekend was nothing short of a perfect miracle, and I am honored to say that I am the happiest and luckiest man on this planet! Despite handing out a few clues and cancelled hot air balloon rides due to weather, Regina was completely surprised when I proposed on bended knee in the midst of a private dinner for two within the walls of a candle-lit winery cave. It was an evening I will cherish forever, and a ‘Yes’ that will keep me smiling perpetually.
Thank you to all of you who kept it a secret and who have been so supportive of Regina and me since day one. Please keep us in your prayers. More details to come soon!
With much love, excitement, and gratitude,
Paul (and soon-to-be Regina Grace) Bailey
We have planned our wedding for Saturday, April 30, 2011 in Chicago, and we could not be more excited. We’ve begun talking about our Pre-Cana classes and ways in which we can best prepare spiritually for this wonderful journey together…and one of the first steps was to thank YOU for bringing us together. We are truly each other’s other half, and the immense gratitude and appreciation that we feel towards you is indescribable.
Please know of our fervent and constant thoughts and prayers for you, for your familiesand all those who frequent this website.