IN the world of online dating agencies where first, second and last chances at romance are frequently promised, the guiding ethos of Catholic Match is simple and direct: ‘Grow in faith, fall in love’ is its website’s guiding mantra — a message that is clearly being heeded, given its one million visitors every month.
Headquartered in the small town of Zelienople, Pennsylvania, it began in 1999, when friends Brian Barcaro and Jason LaFosse launched a local singles forum ‘to help cultivate marriage and provide a vibrant, moral community environment’.
When the site became a major success, they added partner Mike Lloyd in 2003 and rebranded as CatholicMatch.com. “It was their goal to provide a pleasing, easy to use interface with a more faith-filled experience than the secular ‘one-size-fits-all’ sites,” said Robyn Lee, editor of the Catholic Match blog. By 2005, it had become the number one online service for single Catholics with membership across the world, including the UK, Australia, the Philippines, much of Europe, including Ireland.
“What differentiates Catholic Match from other dating sites like eHarmony or Match.com is that we provide a uniquely Catholic experience,” she explained. “Our service provides an emphasis on what is important in establishing a strong Catholic relationship and marriage. Although we provide many tools to help single meet each other for a romantic purpose, we understand that ultimately God’s will and time is what truly brings two people together,” said Lee.
Catholic Match is a vibrant community where singles can also find friendship, community, support and grow deeper in their Catholic faith, she adds.
With almost 27m single Catholics in the US alone, the site became the largest Catholic dating site in America catering to the needs of this huge demographic. “While diocese and parish Marriage & Family life offices are doing much to support marriage they are often overworked and understaffed, that is why we feel Catholic Match is perfectly positioned to help support marriage and family life offices as the need to address singles in the Church continues to grow,” says Lee, who has an undergraduate degree from Christendom College in Philosophy and a masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College.
“Users are drawn to Catholic Match because they are looking for a spouse who shares the same faith and similar values. It provides tools like a temperament test that helps users to know more about themselves and what they are looking for in a potential spouse. Members are able to realise the importance of God’s gifts and be open to sacramental grace when seeking their future spouse.”
Lee adds that “we have had thousands of couples get married as a result of meeting through CatholicMatch.com, and they’re just the ones we know about.”
And on the website, John Keane and Angela Dobbs, who were married on Jan 12 this year, are keen to tell their story. “I was used to online dating, but with Catholic Match a lot of things really stood out to me,” said John, who had been unsuccessfully searching for five years. “I liked the way it was formatted, it seemed to have more participating members. I found the community very helpful, since it wasn’t normal in the course of meeting new people to meet Catholic singles.”
For Angela, finding a Catholic man was one of her primary requirements: “My faith is really important to me, so I figured that going on Catholic Match would be the most obvious choice as everybody on there is Catholic. I don’t really have a large social circle and I’m a relatively quiet person so it was more difficult to meet people,” she added. In the end, time and effort paid off. “Don’t be discouraged; look at my case, meeting Angela after five years,” said John. “If it’s the Lord’s will, either through Catholic Match or some other means, that other person will present themselves to you.”
“I’ve heard many people say that it is hard to meet new people, but if you don’t have a strong community or family it is even harder to meet someone who has the same value system as you,” says Robyn Lee. “That is why Catholic Match can be so helpful.”
An upcoming trip of American members to Ireland taking in all the tourist spots like Killarney, Galway, Cashel and Dublin is already sold out. “Our community offers prayer support, lively discussions on hot topics and even poll questions to engage others’ opinions. Catholic Match offers the tools that allow our members to be guided — not by a scientific formula — but by discernment and providence.”
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