For decades, they came from the highways and byways, seeking love and companionship — many of them bachelor farmers — but Cupid’s arrow has struck for the last time from the shrine at Knock, Co Mayo.
Since 1968, Knock Marriage Introductions has matched almost 1,000 couples, but a combination of online dating services, along with a general decline in marriages, has forced it to close its doors.
Fr Stephen Farragher, director of the service formerly known as Knock Marriage Bureau, said there had been a noticeable decline in demand “to the point that it is no longer viable to run the service”.
Marking St Valentine’s Day this year, chief matchmaker Leona Connery said that, last year, just two people got engaged and none married, although they had around the same number of applications as the previous year — around 160.
“Now marriages are down though people are in long-term relationships. They are not rushing into marriage,” she told CatholicIreland.net.
“The annual subscriptions from clients who have used the service have had to be supplemented in recent years by donations from dioceses around Ireland,” said Fr Farragher. “Obviously this is not sustainable long term. It is for these reasons that the board of directors of Knock Marriage Introductions have decided at a recent meeting to wind down the agency.
“We do so with heavy hearts, but happy in the knowledge that at least for 960 couples, it played a part in helping them to become husband and wife.”
Knock Marriage Introductions was established in 1968. A branch of Catholic Action, it worked on the basis that all applicants were free to marry and seeking a Catholic marriage. That always meant no divorcees or separated people.