I got a call at my parish the other day. It was from a young woman who was very enthused about launching a singles’ group at the parish. I told her we keep a list of interested singles and that we’d held a few meetings and were planning to do more in the future.
She was raring to go. Wanted to help. Wanted to take it and run with it. Wanted to do whatever she could. And then the conversation went like this:
Her: Could I ask you a question? Who’s on the list? Are there a lot of men or is it mostly women?
Me: It’s like most Catholic singles ministries: a lot more women than men.
Her: OK .Thank you for your time.
And she was gone, just like that. Hung up.
This, my friends, is why Catholic singles’ ministry is in trouble today.
Look, I understand it. I did it for years. We want to be married. We’re looking for a nice Catholic spouse. We hear Dr. Phil say we should spend our time in “target-rich environments” and we figure where better to find a nice single Catholic than at a nice Catholic singles’ group? Some helpful and well-meaning married friend (who, God bless them, generally seem to be the most likely to treat our single-ness as some kind of disease that needs to be cured), is probably saying “Well, if there is no group, get out there and start one! How else do you think you’re going to find a man?”
And so the elusive Catholic Singles’ Group becomes the Holy Grail, that one unattainable place where all of the eligible, attractive rosary-reciters congregate, just waiting for the likes of us to complete their hopes and dreams. It becomes the means to our end, our best hope of evading a lonely spinsterhood lived out in a house full of cats.
If it doesn’t exist, we’ll create it.
It could work, couldn’t it?
In theory, yes.
In practice, very rarely.
A difficult reality
You know that the world must just be teeming with attractive and faithful Catholic single persons. And yet, when you go, you find a very small group, none of whom fit your rather extensive criterion for wedded bliss.
And so, you never go back. Instead you press on, searching for the elusive group that he might belong to.
Meanwhile, in a few weeks or a few months, a handsome stranger will darken the door of that same singles’ group. He will scan the crowd, searching. He looks again and again – which doesn’t take long, because it’s still the same five people, who don’t notice him because they’re all friends and have long ago stopped acknowledging these newcomers who show up once and never return. He turns, sadly, and departs, moving on to the next church, the next group.
And he never finds you.
Alas, this is the fate of a young Catholic population who sees parish singles groups as simply stopping-off stations, useful only to the extent that they produce marriageable men and women on short notice.
“Isn’t that what a Catholic singles’ group is supposed to be?” I can hear (or read) the comments now. Sure, that’d be nice. But how’s it working out for you? If it is, great. If not, you might want to take a slightly different approach.
Look at CatholicMatch. Do you think this online community is thriving because single Catholics drop in, find a spouse and bolt? No, it’s thriving because it’s a really big room that’s impossible to scan in an evening. So people stick around. Many of them dive in and get involved. They chat in the forums. They get together with people in their area. They make friends. And somewhere in the process, lo and behold, they might just encounter someone else who has done the same, someone they just might want to spend the rest of their lives with.
Try taking the same approach in your parish and see what happens.