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The last 15 to 20 years have seen a sea change in the world of dating, one with profound implications for Catholics. The change is the rise in online dating and its widespread acceptance as a legitimate tool for meeting the right person.
Turning to the Internet for assistance in meeting people makes sense for anyone, regardless of their religious and moral convictions—let’s face it, with society operating at such a fast pace, meeting people in the usual places isn’t all that easy.
But for Catholics who are committed to our Faith, an expansion of the dating pool is almost a necessity. Again, let’s face it—if you don’t believe in unmarried sex or artificial contraception, even a lot of the people you meet in the usual places are going to be in a different place.
Furthermore, Catholics can find that online dating not only expands the pool, but makes the ultimate winnowing down process much easier. The profiles at major Catholic dating sites ask the member’s belief on the above moral questions, on which the laity is often divided. Knowing up front whether you are on the same page with a date on subjects like birth control spares you a conversation which becomes almost impossible to fit into polite dating dialogue—at least until you’re serious enough that you’ve wasted valuable time if the wrong answer comes back.
Several Catholic dating websites have grown quickly, and the number of success stories continues to increase. One example is Donna Sue and Joel Doc, a 50-something couple with a strong Catholic faith.
Donna Sue lives in Oklahoma, and in 2008 her previous marriage was annulled by the Church. With two daughters and seven grandchildren nearby, she was settled into single life, a parishioner at St. Damien’s of Molokai, a parish run by the Fraternity of St. Peter, an Order based in Nebraska and dedicated to offering the Tridentine Mass.
Joel Doc Berry is a retired rancher and lived in Montana. His wife had succumbed to leukemia and Joel Doc found his solace in being near his horses and through his devotion to the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Like Donna, he was looking to meet someone and they both joined Ave Maria Singles.
Donna Sue’s profile caught Joel Doc’s attention. “She was cute as a bug,” he recalled. “She had a great profile and a great smile.” For her part, Donna wasn’t looking to get into a long-distance relationship, but the distance between them made her feel safe enough to start an online dialogue. “With him in Montana, there was no way we would ever meet, let alone date and get married,” she recalled thinking.
The little opening that Donna gave Joel was all that he—and the Holy Spirit—needed to begin working. Joel, being retired, was able to travel to Oklahoma and stay at a bed and breakfast, as they got to know each other. When they were apart, he sent roses, a beautiful rosary and pictures of his Montana home. “Yep, I was falling in love,” Donna Sue admitted.
February to October in 2010 saw Joel and Donna Sue’s long-distance courtship flourish. “It was the love we both had for the Eucharist that made each of us think he/she is THE ONE,” Donna told Regina Magazine. They also share common cultural interests, each being from cowboy country with a love for all that entails—rodeo, authentic western music and movies.
Joel knew early on he had a treasure in Donna, and had an engagement ring made, a rose-cut diamond with two roses on each side and diamonds in the center.
In Oklahoma City he took Donna and her two grown daughters out to dinner, got down on one knee and proposed. “Although I figured I an official proposal was coming, I was surprised that night,” Donna said. “And the ring…well I was just blown away by its beauty and symbolism.”
Today, Joel Doc and Donna are married and living in Oklahoma, in spite of his earlier vow never to leave Montana. He said he would never leave home, she never thought she would date long-distance. Both of them found happiness by stepping outside the box.
Joel Doc and Donna are just one of the many thousands of couples I have see come together in the last ten years I have been working on Catholic dating sites. I have seen couples come together from across the ocean. I’ve also seen couples who were in the same parish, but who didn’t meet until they noticed each other online.
If Valentine’s Day 2014 has you wanting a change in your dating life, this is a way to step outside the box and shake things up. Maybe now is the time for you to find a real Catholic marriage.
Dan Flahertyhas worked as a writer, moderator and researcher on Catholic dating sites for ten years.