Being Single in the Church (article)
I was brought up in the Southern Baptist church and do not agree with all teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (such as their rejection of sola fide and sola scriptura), but while the following article addresses singles in the Roman Catholic Church, I could totally relate to it. If you are Baptist or Protestant (and unmarried), I think you will be able to relate to it, too.
- By Emily Stimpson – OSV Newsweekly, 7/24/2011
Although it may be reassuring, in some ways, that today’s unmarried Catholics have lots of company in the single life, it’s also a problem. Never before have quite so many adults, Catholics or otherwise, delayed marriage quite so late in life. Some delay by choice. Others by chance. But marriage is delayed regardless. And the results are often less than rosy.
…There also are plenty of Catholic singles managing to live happy and virtuous lives because of, not in spite of, their singleness. They’re serving God, building up his Kingdom in the world and loving those who cross their path. These singles are going to church, going to confession and not going home from bars with strangers. They’re actually not going home with anyone. They’re both professing and living the Church’s teachings on human sexuality.
Unfortunately, those singles are the minority, even within the Catholic Church. And for as happy and virtuous as that minority might be, most still have their fair share of struggles with their singleness.
At the top of most faithful Catholic singles’ list of complaints is their single status itself. Most don’t want to remain unmarried. They want to say “I do.” But finding a spouse who shares their faith and who won’t pressure them to abide by the culture’s sexual norms is something of a trick these days, particularly for women.
“The men aren’t there,” said Dave Sloan, who helps run the Atlanta-based national singles outreach Singles Serving Orphans, part of Serving God’s Kids, which sponsors missions trips to a Mexican orphanage multiple times each year. “Go to the parish events. There are loads of attractive, appealing, virtuous women and just a handful of guys. It’s a tough situation.”
…“That loneliness is the key issue for most singles,” Sloan said. “The human person was made to be in a family, a community. We image God, who is a family, and we were made to share our life with others.”
They also leave many singles asking some big questions about God.
“Their life isn’t turning out as they expected, so they want to know where God is in their singleness. Did he forget them? Why are they still single? And what do they do about it?” said Catholic Match columnist and “Real Love” (Ignatius Press, $14.95) author Mary Beth Bonacci.
For all those reasons and more, the Church sympathizes with singles, both the faithful variety and the less-than-faithful variety. It understands the path they’re on isn’t an easy one. It wants to help. It just isn’t sure how.
…Once you get outside the major cities and away from the national scene, however, you have to start looking harder for thriving singles ministries. A lot harder.
According to Sloan, in recent years most Catholic dioceses have scaled back their outreach to singles and young adults, eliminating young adult ministers or reducing their positions to part time. Tough financial times account for some of those decisions, but Sloan believes something else is at work.
“When people find themselves single later than they thought they would be, their instinct often is to go to God,” Bonacci said. “But when they do, what they find are parish structures built around families, and they don’t know how to break in.
“It’s not a bad thing for parishes to be concerned about families,” she added. “Families need all the help they can get. But parishes need to find ways to incorporate those who don’t fit into the family programming mold — sacramental prep, Catholic schools and catechetical programs.”
No one (or almost no one) questions that. But the dilemma remains: How?
“It’s a hard demographic to pin down,” said Christopher Chapman, associate director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “You’ve got Catholic singles who are 25, and you’ve got Catholic singles who are 55. The 25-year-olds don’t want to socialize with the 55-year-olds, and the 55-year-olds don’t want to socialize with the 25-year-olds.”
Less ‘churchy’ events
For those reasons, the growing consensus among those involved in singles ministry is that a multi-pronged approach, which encompasses evangelization, formation, socialization and opportunities for service, needs to be taken.
In Bonacci’s Denver-area parish, they’re attempting an end run around the diverse age range by hosting events for singles that are more substantive than social. After the teaching is over, people still socialize, but they tend to break off into age-appropriate groups.
Scoll down that page to read testimonials by adult Catholic singles – their experiences are the same as Baptist and Protestant singles.
Here is a sample comment from that page:
- post by Graciesmom
- “. . . .events for unmarried Catholics can be found most any night of the week. Happy hours, Theology on Tap, service projects, Bible studies and book clubs are all there for those willing to take advantage of them.”
WHAT? That is simply Not true. Yes, yes, The Church offers tons of stuff for the unmarried – providing they are under 40 or over 65. There is NOTHING for those who have aged-out of young adult ministry.
And the idea that all unmarried Catholic persons have free time to serve the Church through mission trips? Again, that’s just crazy! I actually have to work and I have to provide for my young child 24/7. Do people who write these articles forget that many of us who are divorced have children from the first marriage?
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