As a single lady, how do you find your niche in your parish, church, and community? How do you hope to expand your community this year? What are some suggestions for those of us looking for a way to find a community? Lent might just be the perfect time to try something new—what do you recommend?
I wrote about this in essay format in “I Am Single and Catholic, and I Matter”. When I wrote that, I was particularly frustrated with the complaints I hear about single people in the Church:
- “The Church needs to do more for single people.”
- “There’s nothing to do at church if you don’t have a spouse or kids.”
- “Don’t worry about the single people. We’ll get them when they’re ready to get married, or at least to have their babies baptized.”
In general, I don’t like complaining. I try not to. (Sometimes I fail.) It’s one thing to identify a problem when you don’t have a solution. It’s another thing to suggest an answer that gets ignored or never comes to fruition. It’s still another thing to point out problems for their own sake. That last one is the one I dislike the most.
Number 1 is the worst. When single people say “do more, Church,” what exactly are they looking for? Although I was involved in Catholic online dating for a while, I would steer clear of any kind of parish-affiliated singles group. I love young adult groups (which tend to be comprised of mostly single people), but to declare that a group is for singles is like stamping everyone who goes with a scarlet “S” and encouraging people to pair off fast and disappear once they’re coupled up. I already feel abandoned sometimes by my friends who have gotten married and left our young adult groups (even before they had kids). I don’t need to feel like I’m failing at being in a singles group because I’m not married and gone yet.
On the contrary, I keep myself busy defying Number 2. At my parish, I’m a lector, and I’ve joined adult Bible study on and off. We do topical studies for eight to twelve weeks at a time, which I like. By “adult,” we just mean that it’s not going to be geared toward children, teens, young adults, parents, couples, or retirees. Similar to my other activities, adult Bible study tends not to draw married adults who have young children at home, but they would be completely welcome. We do have some empty-nest couples, and our leader has one child at home and I think two in college, yet I feel welcome and appreciated as a single person.
One of the other Bible study members told me the last time we met that she particularly appreciates my presence. The same study is offered on Thursday mid-mornings (I go Wednesday nights), but that is all older people. No one else is free in that time slot! This lady said she’s been to that one before, but since all the people are so similar, the “discussions” turn into choruses of agreement. In our study, I don’t have much to offer concerning the way God loves us unconditionally like parents love their children, but I know plenty about drawing wayward souls back. Sometimes that soul is mine.
Number 3 is unfortunately not true. Maybe it was in the past, but it’s not today. I knew that even before I saw the stats in Forming Intentional Disciples. It’s more likely today that children who are raised Catholic (not that I’ve ever found a good definition of “raised Catholic”) will stop going to Mass by their mid-twenties and never return. It’s not even a 50/50 chance—more like 85/15. We’re hemorrhaging baptized Catholics. This is the one zone where I would say we need a revolution to get young adults back or make them want to stay. Youth ministry is fine because kids will go when their parents make them go. High school ministry has vastly improved. Campus ministry is doing okay, although not great. Young adult and marriage ministries are struggling. I say that as a young adult who is involved in ministry. The few baptized babies that make it through adolescence without leaving church (or who come back, like I did) face some hard work building the next generation.
The best advice I can offer is not to let your youth or singleness be held against you (1 Timothy 4:12). As Shauna Niequist is fond of saying, “You are significant with or without a significant other.” I definitely wish I were married by now, but since I’m not, I’ve struck out on my own. You can do the same. If you need a buddy, I might not be able to hold your hand in person, but you can always ask for my prayers.
Next week’s topic: Reading List Recommendations
We all enjoy new reading material, and this year a reading goal just may be on your list of goals. What book genre(s) do you like the most? Do you borrow books from your local library, purchase them for current and future reading, or do you read e-books? What are some books that you loved reading and that you would recommend?
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Link up with Rachel at Keeping It Real.