Bishop James Conley, auxiliary bishop of the Denver Archdiocese, spoke to the concerns of Catholic singles at the 2012 National Catholic Singles Conference held in the archdiocese recently. He said, “Many of my single friends tell me that the single life is fraught with anxiety — what is my vocation? What is my place in the Church? What is my place in my family? What is my place in my community?”
Referring to the day’s reading — 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 — the bishop continued, “St. Paul is encouraging single men and women to draw close to Jesus Christ; to find in him a focus on the Christian life — to be radically oriented towards pleasing the Lord. St. Paul exhorts all single people to adhere and cling to the Lord without distraction.”
Although they have not committed themselves to marriage, the priesthood or religious life, many singles are successfully finding fulfillment and happiness by striving to serve Christ in their singleness.
Tessa Kocan, 35, lives in the Chicago suburbs. Throughout her young-adult life, she has been a devout Catholic who has had “a deep longing for marriage and children.”
“Time and again, things would fall apart, and I was left wondering: Why?” she shared about her dating experiences.
Well-educated and a strong believer in traditional roles for men and women, she has a fondness for veils and the Latin Mass.
She has always “put up boundaries” to preserve her virginity. She is happy she has, but it has led to one frustration: “Those of us single women who have preserved our chastity thought our virtue would be rewarded [with a husband].”
But, she said, “I didn’t maintain my virginity for a reward on this earth, anyway.”
However, as she has gotten into her 30s, she has begun to see some benefits to the single life and “how God has a unique plan for me.”
For example, she quit her job as a legal secretary and took a job working for a Church apostolate. She spent some time in Russia working in a Catholic mission. She has volunteered for the pro-life movement as well.
And, most importantly, her availability has given her the chance to provide invaluable assistance to her family.
One of her older sisters gave birth to a seventh child, and it was discovered that the child suffered from a severe genetic condition. Kocan wanted to help, so she quit her job and moved in with her sister’s family for 10 months.
Now, another sister, also a mother of seven children — the youngest is 2 — has been diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma.
After other treatments were attempted, it was determined that only a stem-cell transplant would save her.
Her sister needed a good genetic match from a female who had never been pregnant. Kocan was screened, and it was determined she was a 100% match.
As of this writing, she is preparing for the transplant, which all hope will save her sister’s life.
As she mused, “Isn’t it amazing that a virgin can still be life-giving?”
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis noted that Catholic singles are better able to make themselves available for prayer and apostolic work.
He observed, “Single men and women who have given themselves wholeheartedly to Christ … bind themselves to the service of others, and they participate directly in the Church’s mission and share themselves intimately with those who walk with them on the journey to Christ’s Kingdom.”
He continued, “They discern God’s will for themselves through prayer, spiritual reading and retreats. They commit to their families — parents, siblings and extended family members. They partner with friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, neighbors and all whom they encounter in seeking to make our world a better place.”
The personal prelature of Opus Dei has many members who have formally committed themselves to the single state for the good of Christ’s Kingdom. Bob Moniot, 61, is a computer science teacher at Fordham University in New York City and a committed celibate member of Opus Dei.
He was raised Catholic, but was “drifting” from his faith while he was attending graduate school at Berkeley in 1972.
At the invitation of a friend, he began attending Opus Dei evenings of recollection in San Francisco.
He said, “I liked the people that I met, and I liked the message of sanctifying your daily work.”
In 1980, he became a member.
As a young man, he did have a desire for a wife and children, but he “received some intense formation, which helped me decide what I wanted to do: I decided God was calling me to be a celibate member.” (Some Opus Dei members are married and have families.)
He has no regrets about his decision, but admitted, “There’s always the what-if-I’d-gotten-married temptation, but I’ve always rejected it. As a human being, it can be a struggle when you see a pretty girl, but I believe I’m doing what God wants me to do.”
He maintains a rigorous prayer life, including daily Mass. He keeps busy tending to the needs of his fellow Opus Dei members.
They also gather regularly for spiritual and social activities. He noted, “My lack of a wife and children is filled by other people. In Opus Dei, we feel like we’re a family.”
Astrid Bennett Gutierrez, 38, lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey. As a single person, she has dedicated herself to her Catholic faith and the pro-life cause. She is executive director of the Los Angeles Pregnancy Center, which offers abortion alternatives to pregnant women in the poor, inner-city neighborhood in which she was reared. She hosts a weekly Spanish radio program, Living the Culture of Life, and is president of the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Hispanics for Life group.
She is also co-host of the EWTN program The Catholic View for Women.
While she’s open to marriage “if it will glorify God,” she’s content devoting all her energy to her work. And, to do so, it has been helpful to remain single.
As she explained, “In fighting abortion, time is of the essence. If I get a call in the middle of the night to come to the aid of an abortion-minded woman, I can come. If the media calls and wants me to debate someone from Planned Parenthood, I can do it.”
As a “fully committed” single person, she seeks to “fall in love with Christ and spend every day in service to others.”
Gutierrez concedes that it is natural to have “a longing” for marriage and family, but in her business of saving babies, she has found a way of filling that void.
She recently spoke to her 9-year-old godson, who was nearly a victim of abortion three times. She persuaded his mother to have her child and put him up for adoption. He was adopted by a devout Catholic family and is today an excellent student who excels at sports, has a fondness for prayer and is an all-around “joy-filled little boy.”
As she puts it, “It’s true that I don’t have children of my own, but, as in the case of this 9-year-old, I get to be a spiritual mother to many children.”
Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.
Catholic singles’ websites are popular among Catholic men and women seeking fellowship and marriage. Catholic singles who are active members of two such sites shared their personal stories and experiences online:
Carrie, 37, who lives in a suburb of St. Louis, is active on CatholicMatch.com. She works as a musician and has never been married. She has performed at 165 weddings, so the idea of getting married has crossed her mind. For her, the site has been an evangelistic tool, as she sometimes meets Catholics not well schooled in the faith: “I’ve told divorced people without an annulment that they should wait until they have one to date; I’ve also introduced people to Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. Hopefully, I can continue to be a gift to those I meet.”
Mark, 52, who lives outside of New York City, is active on CatholicSingles.com. He is widowed and has two grown children. As it has been 30 years since he has been single and asked a woman out on a date, the site has proven most helpful. He remarked, “The hardest thing for me is getting up the nerve to ask a woman out. That’s why the site is good.”