Online dating used to have a certain stigma: If you have to go online to find your significant other, then you must be socially inept. But today that stereotype is gone. Driven by a desire to find someone who shares their faith and not because they lack social skills, Catholics of all ages are turning to online dating to meet their spouses.
Why are people no longer relying on conventional methods to find their spouse? Three couples, David and Tricia Nevarez, Jonathan and Adrienne Farrow, and Meg and Jim Huening, reveal their reasons for looking online.
CatholicSingles.com founder met his wife on his own site
After college, David Nevarez, 51, looked at online dating sites to find a fellow Catholic but came up with nothing.
“The only religious site I found had all Protestants and no Catholics, so a light went off and I realized this was something that needed to get created,” he said.
Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, David founded CatholicSingles.com in 1997. Since the website started, David has seen the stigma leave and membership increase.
“I think this changed when the mass media began embracing it. You saw shows like Oprah showcasing how wonderful online dating could be,” he said.
Likewise, he believes the busy American lifestyle has contributed to the shift.
“People get so busy, and there are so many distractions today, that carving out time for personal interactions sometimes takes a backseat to everything else,” he said. “After people leave college, they see their dating pool, … and sites like ours are a perfect way for them to connect to other Catholics looking for others who share their faith.”
The Holy Spirit not only guided him to help others find their spouses — he also found the love of his life along the way. After he had got his business off the ground, David started to use CatholicSingles himself.
“I didn’t let anyone know I ran it until after we had met. However, as I met more members, it became very satisfying just to know how many people were benefiting from it,” he said. “As we started to get success stories, I was humbled to be a part of what was happening.”
In 2010, after seeing the success her friend had with online dating, Tricia joined CatholicSingles.
“I was nervous but decided to at least see what it was all about,” said Tricia, who was also motivated by her move to Los Angeles from New York, where she found herself with few friends who were practicing Catholics and, as a result, attending Mass alone.
“I had no expectations other than the possibility of meeting a new friend who shared my faith and maybe, just maybe we would hit it off,” Tricia said.
“Well, not only did I meet a new friend — I met my future husband. He was not only a member — he happened to be the owner of CatholicSingles.com.”
David and Tricia celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary on July 23, 2016.
“We would have never … met if not for the site. We were two hours away from each other, but what we found interested us enough to bring us together and risk a long drive each time to get together,” David said. “We were in our 40s and had never married before, so there is always hope and a way!”
David encourages everyone who is looking for their spouse to try online dating.
“I think some people who haven’t explored this as an option might be under the misconception that it’s only for some people — only for some age groups or level of orthodoxy,” he said.
But in reality the members vary in demographics and where they are in their faith.
“Members range from those learning about Catholicism, particularly new converts and catechumens, to cradle Catholics,” he said. “What we share in common is our faith and our desire to share that in fellowship with a potential mate. Those who have success are most commonly Catholics who are comfortable with the idea of online dating and who aren’t afraid to talk a little about themselves.”
Jon and Adrienne were Facebook friends
From kindergarten to fifth grade, Jon and Adrienne attended a Catholic school in Oregon together, and they were even friends on Facebook, but it took seeing each other on CatholicMatch.com to start a relationship.
In early 2014, Adrienne, 28, was feeling frustrated about only meeting men who couldn’t understand her faith, so she took the plunge and paid for a CatholicMatch subscription. The next day, Jon, 29, saw her picture in his matches and immediately recognized her.
“I hadn’t had any contact with Adrienne ever since she left our school in sixth grade, but we were ‘friends’ on Facebook. I didn’t know if she was single or looking, but once I saw her on CatholicMatch, it was an easy decision to reach out to Adrienne and strike up a conversation to see where it might go,” Jon said.
When Adrienne received Jon’s message, she immediately recognized her old schoolmate, who was also, as she later admitted to Jon, her crush throughout all of elementary school. They were both interested in seeing each other in person again, but unexpected trips and a snowstorm kept the couple — who both lived in the Portland, Oregon area — apart for three weeks. When they finally went on their first date, Adrienne and Jon immediately hit it off.
“I knew by about the second date that she was the one for me, and by our fourth date, I finally had enough courage to finally ask her to be my girlfriend, and we had our first kiss,” Jon said.
Six months later, the couple was engaged, and less than a year later, they were married in a nuptial Mass concelebrated by their childhood priests. Adrienne says many people have described their wedding as one of the most joyful they have ever attended.
“Everything flowed perfectly; it was a gorgeous June day, and our reception was at a historical hotel in Portland. It was honestly our dream wedding and the perfect celebration of our love,” Adrienne said.
“We have been truly blessed by God to reconnect through CatholicMatch — so blessed with our families’ support as well as our priests,” Jon said. “We feel that everything came together just like God planned.”
Meg turned to CatholicMatch to restore her faith in men
“I wanted to believe that there were good men out there, but I didn’t know where else to find them,” says Meg Huening, 58, whose 24-year marriage had been annulled. “Reading many wonderful comments from members on the CatholicMatch Institute and in the forums gave me the confidence I needed. I was looking for the support of friendship and the hope of marriage in the future.”
Meg, who is from Kansas City, Missouri, found that support on the forums, making friends with many men and women.
“The gentlemen on there renewed my faith in males,” Meg said. “I could see the possibility of [a] good marriage for me in the future.”
One of those gentlemen was Jim Huening, a 61-year-old widow from Cincinnati. After seeing that he had liked some of her pictures, Meg took a leap of faith and sent Jim a message. He quickly replied, and the couple started discussing their shared interests — psychology, behavior, and self-improvement. At this point, Meg considered Jim her friend, but she didn’t realize how attached she was to him until one day when he didn’t send her a morning message.
Oh my gosh, there goes another one. I can’t depend on men, Meg thought.
Later that day he sent her a message, and Meg explained that she was upset when he failed to message her. Jim’s quick response is what made him such a good match for Meg.
“From then on, he has never missed a morning message,” Meg said.
Jim said that one of the things he likes most about his relationship with Meg is that they have always been open with each other.
“Early on, it became obvious to both of us that we could share pretty much anything with the other. There was an almost instant ease and connection,” he said.
After talking online for three months, the couple finally met in person in St. Louis, where they spent the weekend attending Mass and sightseeing. Jim even stretched himself to try ballroom dancing with Meg, who practices more than 16 hours a week.
“I think pretty much from that point on I knew that I wanted to marry her — if she would have me,” Jim said.
Meg, however, had some fear when the weekend was over.
“After I got back to KC, I thought maybe I made all of this up,” she said.
Once again, it was their ability to communicate that allowed Jim and Meg to be together. After telling Jim her fears, his responses helped Meg to relax.
“I stopped looking for the smoking gun,” she said.
Jim’s patience with Meg’s emotional needs extended to proposing twice.
“I asked her during a visit to Cincinnati in September ,” said Jim, “but she said she needed a bit more time.” A few days later, she let him know that she was ready and that if he asked her again, she would say “yes.”
A month later, Jim romantically proposed to Meg after waltzing to Anne Murray’s “Can I Have This Dance?”
“At the end of the song, I dropped to my knee and asked her again,” Jim said.
In March 2016, Meg moved to Cincinnati to be closer to Jim, and in June 2016, they were married in a small ceremony at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, Missouri.
“We both had the mind-set that we were dumping the pieces of our lives into God’s lap to sort them out,” said Meg of her marriage.
And that’s just what they have done.
“Being married to Jim has been wonderful! We have stretched ourselves at times, and we have adjusted to blending our two lives,” Meg said.
How to date online
Both of the websites CatholicMatch.com and CatholicSingles.com allow you to create a profile for free, and if you see someone you would like to talk to, then the cost for each is $12.49 a month when you sign up for six months. For people who put in an honest effort for six months and still haven’t had any success, CatholicMatch offers an additional six months free.
To complete a successful profile, it’s important to answer every question and have a good-quality photo. Just like in-person interactions, online dating only works if you are willing to put quality time into looking at profiles and sending messages.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Catholic Digest.