Sandra was reeling from a broken relationship. After relocating from her Memphis home to Kentucky for her fiancé, the engagement had been broken. She was looking to start anew when Dan contacted her on CatholicMatch in the spring of 2008.
“Despite my personal rule for not responding to anyone without a profile pic there was something in his message that made me…intrigued enough to respond,” Sandra recalled.
Dan lived in the Twin Cities area and for the next few months they exchanged messages, talked by phone and began to make tentative plans for him to come and visit.
Then something happened. Suddenly Dan wasn’t returning Sandra’s calls. For upwards of seven to ten days she kept getting his voice mail and got no response. “I finally left him an ugly message and said to have a nice life,” she admitted.
With that she left town for her brother’s wedding. And while getting ready for the rehearsal dinner she got a call. It was from Dan—he had been in the hospital.
The 45-year-old explained he was still in the hospital, and Sandra told him about the messages she’d left. They agreed to work through the misunderstandings.
After Dan and Sandra became engaged three years later that commitment to working things through was still evident. Father Tim Sullivan, the priest who is seeing them through marriage prep spoke of their willingness to face any difficulties squarely.
“There’s somebody out there for everybody, but you have to work through life baggage issues,” Father Sullivan said, speaking not just of Dan and Sandra, but for everybody. “They had the humility to work through counseling and it made their relationship stronger.”
The couple worked through that initial misunderstanding back in the fall of 2008 and Dan’s visit was back on. They went to Mass together, toured a winery and enjoyed getting to know each other in person. When Dan returned to the Twin Cities he sent his new love interest flowers as a thank-you and in early 2009 sent her a yellow gold & diamond cross.
Sandra’s life was changing in early ’09 and she relocated back home to Memphis. When Dan came to visit again they were able to tour Beale Street, Graceland and take a river tour of the city.
“During that visit Dan showed me an engagement ring he had purchased,” Sandra recalled. “So I knew a proposal was coming.” It was just a matter of when, and in the early part of 2010 the talk of him relocating began to escalate.
In spite of her love for Dan, the hurt Sandra had dealt with from her own relocation for a fiancé made her hesitant. She didn’t want to risk putting him through that. But they worked through it and in October 2010 he took the leap and moved to Memphis.
Ironically, Dan would choose a different parish than the one Sandra was attending and they both ended up at St. Patrick’s in Memphis, where Father Sullivan resides. It proved to be beneficial on a number of levels. “Sandra has found her niche,” the priest told CatholicMatch. “She has a heart of gold and has gotten involved in a couple ministries.” He added that being a part of a smaller parish community likely made that process easier for her.
Sandra and Dan together reached out to a homeless man that was under the wing of Father Sullivan. “They both took an interest in the corporal works of mercy and it’s strengthened their relationship,” he said.
Shortly after Dan moved to Memphis, he and Sandra went out to dinner at a local barbeque restaurant. “We had pretty much finished dinner when he had me close my eyes,” she recalled. “When I opened, there was the ring box sitting on the table in front of me…after what I’m sure seemed like an eternity to Dan I said ‘yes.'”
The couple began the marriage prep program, working with Father Sullivan. But Sandra realized she was dealing with unresolved issues regarding her ex-fiancé and for a time it seemed like the engagement might be in jeopardy.
It was in August 2011 that the last vestiges of doubt were finally obliterated. Dan was taken to the hospital for a ruptured abscess and nearly died. While he was in the hospital it clicked for Sandra.
“I had an epiphany,” she said. “Dan was the one for me! Dan was the one God set aside for me! I began wearing my engagement ring 24/7 and wearing it proud!”
Dan and Sandra aren’t the first couple from CatholicMatch who have crossed Father Sullivan’s path. “I love the website,” he said, recalling not just the couples who have come through his program, but a friend of his in the archdiocese who met his spouse on CatholicMatch. “[CatholicMatch couples] assume the faith dimension is going to be a part of their marriage.”
It’s that Faith dimension that Father Sullivan speaks of that sustained Dan & Sandra through the trials they’ve both been through and will sustain them in the future. She is completing her studies to be a teacher and Dan, whom the priest describes as a “chess savant,” is teaching kids how to play chess.
The wedding will be this coming May and truly it is a blessing well-earned.