Joe and Vanessa got started on CatholicMatch slowly. They each took their time before deciding to become members. Vanessa created a profile in 2009, but it wasn't until a year later that she really began her online search. Joe regularly saw CatholicMatch advertisements at different websites he visited, but it was only after some futile attempts at free sites that he decided to bring his online search to this venue.
There was also one other step Joe took upon joining CatholicMatch—he began a novena to St. Raphael, the archangel who is the patron of singles and of happy meetings.
The 31-year-old English teacher from the Cleveland area, and the 30-year-old from the Philippines who works in banking were not an obvious couple to be matched, due to the distance between them. But one common interest proved to be all they needed to get started, and it was a shared love for music.
Vanessa's profile spoke of her love for both writing and singing songs as a way of expressing her emotions, and she called music her best friend. Joe's initial message to her said simply said: "Music is my best friend too." And with that, an international romance was underway.
As they began to correspond, and eventually to talk in person via Skype, they discovered their shared values went deeper. "The way he relates with his parents moved me deeply," Vanessa recalled. "Almost exactly our norm here in the Philippines." Indeed, one reason Vanessa often reached out to people outside her geographic comfort zone was an interest in how matters of faith and family were lived out in other cultures.
She liked what she saw in Joe, but was afraid to voice it out, for fear of short-circuiting the "getting-to-know-you" process and that it might be too much too soon. As it turned out, Joe would send her a message in late 2010 telling her that he thought she was someone special.
They began to set up a face-to-face meeting and targeted the springtime of 2011. Joe's trip abroad would coincide with Vanessa's birthday. When Joe arrived, Vanessa was getting out of work, and she left the bank to see him waiting with pink flowers.
The visit got started in earnest the following day with a morning Mass at the church were Vanessa grew up. Joe again reiterated his feelings for her on a trip to the Kimay Ni Hesus Shrine (The Hand of Jesus). Those feelings were reciprocated.
"Lots of laughter and special moments were shared with us, my family and friends," Vanessa said. "It was painful to see him go."
Joe and Vanessa continued to communicate through Skype, navigating the difficulty of the extreme time differences on opposite sides of the International Date Line. Vanessa attempted to make a visit to the United States, but ran into a problem with getting a visitor visa. The end result was that Joe decided to spend a couple months in the Philippines to enable them to better discern what God's plan might be for them.
"Through that time we got more familiar with each other's thoughts, values and character," Vanessa recalled. She, and her family, were also honored that Joe's parents used the time to spend a week in the Philippines and enabled the families to get to know each other.
Joe was sure of what he wanted, and took action. "I bought a simple engagement ring at one of the many malls in our area of the Philippines," he told CatholicMatch. "One day, I was over at Nessa's house and we were hanging out in her room. I got down on one knee in a simple way and she said Yes!"
If leaving after his first visit was hard on both of them, it was exponentially more so this time around when Joe had to return to the United States to begin his graduate degree program. They planned the wedding in June 2013, and he returned a few weeks prior to help complete preparations for the ceremony that would take place at her parish church—the same one where they attended their first morning Mass together.
Today, Joe and Vanessa are married, but still in the midst of working out the final documents so they can live permanently in the same place. Faith undergirds their wait, with Vanessa saying simply that all will be fine in God's perfect time. And she is more capable than most at taking this international love story and setting it to music.
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