Catholics turn to the Internet to find a match made in heaven
by Kara Hansen
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Tired of waiting for Cupid or lighting to strike, an increasing number of Catholics have found a surer path to romance with a modern version of the village matchmaker: online dating.
Catholics looking for that special someone — who also happens to share their faith — are creating profiles and regularly accessing numerous Catholic dating Web sites, selecting them for the faith element over well-known secular counterparts along the likes of eHarmony.com, Lavalife.com, and Match.com.
“I selected a Catholic site over secular ones as most of the Catholics that I found on secular sites such as Match.com were not active in their faith,” said Lynn Hartter, a 37-year- old parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Sabetha.
“Spirituality is the most important trait I seek in a future spouse or in any personal relationship,” he continued. “I was in the hopes of meeting someone without denominational barriers in place and having shared beliefs within the denomination.”
Finding a potential spouse who also practices and shares the same Catholic faith seems to be the main reason archdiocesan members start using Catholic dating Web sites as a means of connecting with someone.
“I’m specifically using a Catholic site because I want a devout Catholic as a spouse,” said Beth, a single mother of two in the archdiocese who asked that her last name not be disclosed to protect her children’s privacy.
Naturally, wanting to date and marry a fellow Catholic narrows the playing field a bit. However, users of various Catholic dating sites say these sites help connect them with a broader population that fits their criteria.
Valerie Kuhn found herself widowed with two children, living at the time in a fairly rural area and attending a small parish. Although she hoped to marry again someday, she was not sure how to even go about meeting someone, with what seemed like rather limited opportunities.
“I was an older widow with two special-needs children,” said Kuhn, 50, a former parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Shawnee. “I honestly didn’t know how I would find anyone else to marry.”
Then Kuhn saw print ads for CatholicMatch.com and AveMaria Singles.com. She decided to sign up and give the two Web sites a chance. Immediately, she was able to send e-mails and chat with men across the country who had the types of qualities she had been looking for — and, most importantly, were Catholic as well.
“I knew that, for me, this would be the only way I had a chance of meeting a good, practicing Catholic,” said Kuhn.
Communicating online also provides a chance to interact through the written word, a medium that can be especially helpful to those who are shy, introverted, or just more reserved when it comes to the dating scene.
“I’d liked one or two guys in the course of my college years,” said Michelle Rioux, 25, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Nortonville. “I’m very forthright and talkative when it comes to academics, politics, and things like that, but I’m extremely shy about my feelings and I’ve always been awkward dealing with emotions. My crushes remained just crushes and quietly subsided under the gentle but continued disinterest of the objects of my affection.”
Originally, Rioux wasn’t too keen on the Internet dating scene, Catholic or not. However, she felt strongly that her vocation is to be a wife and mother and eventually took advantage of the opportunity to meet other Catholics.
“I dragged my feet about joining CatholicMatch.com for a full year,” said Rioux. “It was expensive. There were bound to be a bunch of creeps looking for someone to con. Even the decent guys probably wouldn’t be my type. . . . I recanted on that one very quickly. I paid the fee, loaded a few pictures, and added information about my tastes and interests.”
Rioux found the site itself easy to work with and liked that she could set preferences on the site that could help match her with other faithful Catholics.
“I could have been even more selective — CatholicMatch.com allows me to set preferences for height, build, location, etc. — but I thought there might be a wonderful man out there with just a few too many hobbit genes. So, I left that field open and allowed for athletes and couch potatoes as well,” she said.
Weekly, the site sends e-mail to members, listing several potential matches to consider. Though Rioux said she met several men she formed friendships with, she also grew a little discouraged by talking with a few members whose faith did not seem to be as serious as she hoped. Recently, Rioux has also subscribed to AveMariaSingles.com. She felt the detailed questions asked by this site would help identify matches upfront more quickly.
Hartter has had a similar experience.
“Many Catholics don’t agree with all of the positions of the church in the faith statements or with teachings of the church, and this was disheartening,” he said.
Hartter said that while the Web site opened up a world of possible Catholic women to meet, he found it difficult to form relationships in any kind of long-distance capacity.
“It’s a challenge that there are few users in a two-hour radius of Nemaha County. As a busy business executive, I find it impossible to travel to meet matches at this time,” said Hartter. Yet, the hope still persists, as users comb through potential matches seeking to find just the right one. Kuhn was able to do just that.
She met her husband, Tim, through AveMariaSingles.com in August 2006. Though the two lived states away at the time, they corresponded regularly and eventually met in person. The two were married on April 14, 2007.
“Tim was a true answer to many prayers,” said Kuhn. “I knew there were many men out there who might consider me having a child with Down syndrome to be baggage they didn’t want to deal with. It was great to meet someone who respected the sanctity of life. I prayed to find a Catholic man who would love my family, and that prayer was answered.”
Users say to practice common sense safety practices when interacting with relatively anonymous mem- bers of online dating sites or when meeting someone from a Web site in person.
Though the medium of a Catholic dating Web site might be a little different from that used by men and women in previous generations, the goal is still the same.
“Things aren’t really that different today,” said Rioux. “We’re still trying to find Mr. Right or The Right Girl, but the playing field is different.
“That’s partly because the number of faithful, young Catholic singles living in the same community — without already being related — is much smaller. It seems as though, because people can travel farther and relocate more easily, they do. In order to find them, you either need some advanced scientific tool — or an online dating site.”