Catholic College Couples Offer Dating Dos for St. Valentine’s Day

What does it take to build a healthy dating culture? Benedictine College students weigh in.

Coffee date
Coffee date (photo: Unsplash)

Sitting in a pew, a young couple lean in, hold hands and whisper a silent prayer after Mass. The two have been dating for nine months, encountering the joys and struggles of being college students while navigating the dating world.

Both are students at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. 

While many beautiful, holy relationships form on this campus, students also experience the universal drama, heartbreak and the awkward situations that occur when dating.

Henry Gerber and Ruby Carr are both freshmen and have been dating for four months. Neither dated before college, and while they shared that, so far, it has been a good experience, the small size of the school has been the one downside.

"Everybody knows everyone and is always asking about your relationship,” said Carr. “I know from friends that if you do break up, a lot of people ask, ‘Oh, what happened?’ News spreads fast.”

Many other Benedictine students agree with this sentiment, sharing that since dating “news” travels fast, it places undue pressure on couples to enter committed relationships when they may not be ready to.

"That pressure is evident when people ask other people to a dance. A lot of people have the mindset that, ‘If a guy even looks at a woman, they are going to get engaged,’” said Nicole Harrington, a junior. “Our focus is so much on marriage here, which is a good thing, but we forget about simplicity and just having fun and dating for the sake of getting to know people.”

Brooklyn Caskey, a sophomore, has been dating her boyfriend, Peter Burns, a sophomore at Wichita State, for more than a year. She said that their faith has sustained their relationship long distance.

“From the get-go, we had our eyes on Christ and heaven, and that carried over into when we started dating,” said Caskey. “We would not survive long distances without the Catholic faith.”

“Relationships have a lot less commitment at Wichita State, and a lot of people take part in the hook-up culture. Then there is Benedictine, where there is obviously an emphasis on having committed relationships,” said Burns. “To me, a casual relationship doesn’t make sense, because what is the purpose?”

Dating often feeds the good-natured jokes that Benedictine students make, with many quipping that you must find a spouse before graduation.

But across the board, there is an understanding among the student body that dating serves to discern marriage. 

Paul Bytnar, a junior, expressed that this emphasis on marriage promotes a healthy dating culture.

"Dating is obviously a discernment of marriage. When a man asks a woman out, he shows that he wants to pursue her and imagine what a potential relationship could be like,” said Bytnar. “That's a very laudable goal to pursue, rather than just approaching a relationship as if it is simply for pleasure. Dating at Benedictine seems like it has an end goal to it.”

A key part of this mentality is the Catholic faith.

Liza Trettel has been dating her boyfriend, Will Scavuzzo, for almost two and a half years. While dating, Trettel has come to see the beauty of the Catholic Church’s dating advice, focusing on an “active approach to a relationship” based on Christian love.

Overall, the students shared a consensus that dating is valuable because it teaches so much about oneself, another person — and love.

“Dating is good because it’s part of your formation as a human person — to learn to give yourself to another and love another person,” said Anastasia Leffas, a sophomore. “When you encounter the opposite sex in both a dating setting or friendship setting, it forms you and allows you to learn to fall in love well.”

Jack Figge writes from Atchison, Kansas, where he is studying at Benedictine College.