Superficial, creepy, useful just for a fling … dating apps are called all sorts of things, yet many happy marriages show Catholic online dating really works.
Born into a family of nine children in the rural Midwest, Morgan, Cadence and Samara McManimon were all in their early 20s, with stable jobs and facing the challenge of finding the right person. It was not easy to find like-minded young men in their little rural community.
Listening to Morgan’s complaints one day, a friend dared her to go and find someone online. Her mother also nudged her in that direction and her sisters followed her lead. Fast-forward to today, and they are all either engaged or married to men they met on catholicmatch.com.
Soon after signing up to the site, Morgan, age 23, met Jeddiah, 28, who started flying 1,000 miles from Florida to see her during every break he had at law school. Cadence, 21, signed up “to meet nice people and make new friends or dates”. Chris, her now husband, was the first person to message her. Samara, Cadence’s twin sister, in her turn started chatting online with two users of the website – resident doctors at a hospital in Iowa – and it turned out that they were roommates. They started a “best man wins” contest and she is now engaged to one of them, Derek. Their wedding will take place this coming June.
The sisters all carried on long-distance relationships and faced many challenges along the way. Cadence had a chronic illness that made her think twice before starting a serious relationship with Chris, but he did not seem to mind. Due to this illness, she couldn’t even make her own wedding day, having to reschedule it for some weeks later. In spite of everything, their shared values and faith made all things possible.
The girls’ mother, Bethan McManimon, who married her first-grade classmate, had a modern vision of dating. She believed that searching online was “an opportunity to widen prospects” and did not consider it a “desperate last resort but rather a way to increase the pool of people whose values line up with your own”.
Deciding to sign up to an online dating site may feel a bit awkward at first, but the actual process is not complicated: introduce yourself (only first names or nicknames to guarantee a degree of anonymity), post your best smiling photo, and pay a fee.
The set-up is user-friendly and the messaging system straightforward. Safety was a concern, but the first time Morgan, Cadence and Samara met someone from an online dating site, they would take their own cars, meet in public, and give a name and number to someone in the family.
Martin Kugler is an Austrian entrepreneur who decided back in 2005 that it was important to offer this service to young people. He founded the website kathTreff (Catholic meeting) for German speakers.
As he puts it: “We found it urgent to give an answer to the growing need of young Christian singles who faced difficulties in finding a partner.” Now his initiative includes nine websites in different countries and various languages – and has been responsible for more than 1,000 marriages.
Real life still offers opportunities, of course, but a Catholic online dating site gives users the opportunity to narrow the focus on individuals who share at least basic values on family, education and lifestyle. And Kugler refers to how Mother Teresa used to express it: a family that prays together stays together.
Ave Maria Singles is the kathTreff equivalent in the English-speaking world. According to Kugler, many of the cultural contexts that allowed young Catholic adults to meet a spouse easily in the past, such as parishes or family and civic community centres, “are not vibrant any longer”.
On the website of Ave Maria Singles, we find the success story of Noelle and David. Noelle was preparing to get married to a man when she started to have strong doubts. She could either maintain the relationship, knowing that God would be with her, or let go and trust that God had someone better in mind. Someone suggested that she go on Ave Maria Singles. Despite being hesitant at first, she decided to try it out. It was not long before she met her now husband, David.
Amalia Perez, who was working in Madrid when she signed up for the Spanish Catholic dating website matchcatolico.com, decided to take a step forward in trust to “help God help me with this task”. When describing herself for the profile page, she says she “tried my best to be sincere and show myself just the way I was: I said I loved children and elderly people”.
She immediately got a message from Daniel, someone she had never met although he lived just a few miles away.
He fell in love with her the moment he saw her. They will be married next month.
Angela Mengis is a freelance journalist