Reflections From My Favorite Weekend Of The Year


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I just finished an absolutely incredible weekend at the National Catholic Singles Conference. If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. And if you weren’t there…well, you should have been.

It occurred to me, in conversations over the weekend, that perhaps we need a different name. Not so much for the conference as for ourselves. The whole “singles” moniker just isn’t working for me. 

I realize it’s the only word we’ve got at the moment. It describes us and our state of life better than anything else I’ve been able to come up with. We’re single. We – whether never married, divorced, annulled or widowed – are people who live our everyday lives without spouses. We live “singly.” 

Unfortunately, the word has been co-opted by the larger culture. I think it started in the ’60’s with the advent of the “swinging singles.” “Single” no longer just meant “unmarried.” It implied a lifestyle, and a “swinging” one at that. We’re glamorous (or at least we try to be). We party. We hook up. And we are sometimes just a little bit desperate and pathetic, hanging on to our “swinging” lifestyle well into middle age and beyond. 

Afterward, everything “single” came to be viewed through that lens. Singles’ groups, even in churches, were perceived as meat markets where lonely and often promiscuous people would go to find each other. Perhaps in some cases that was true.

But I’ve gotta tell you, in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  The Church is full of adults who, for whatever reason, are living their lives without a spouse. And they – we – often have a difficult time fitting in to the largely two-parent-family-based parish structure. And those people like to get together sometimes.

I’ve never really given a lot of thought to the baggage the word “singles” carries, because I’ve attended and participated in so many quality singles events that to me it carries a much loftier meaning: bringing unmarried and separated people together to share experiences, to build community and to help each other grow closer to Christ.

That’s what happens at the National Catholic Singles Conference. Sure there are some heads swiveling and some men and women making an effort to get to know each other. I’ve heard that there have even been marriages out of these conferences. That’s awesome. 

But it’s not the point. The point is to come together to build community in Christ.  We learn, we pray, we socialize, we realize that we’re not alone, and we come out strengthened and refreshed, with new friends and a new base of community. It’s an awesome experience, and it’s always my favorite weekend of the entire year.

So next time you have the opportunity to attend a Catholic singles conference, listen to that first voice in your head. If it says “Singles? I’m not married, but I’m not one of them,” think again. Maybe they aren’t who you think they are. And maybe, just maybe, they could bring something beautiful into your life.

Maybe you are one of them…






9 Comments

  1. Lesley-158563 February 3, 2012 Reply

    Why wouldn’t you use attending this conference as an opportunity to meet likeminded single Catholics for dating and possible marriage? I’m sure it is pricey to attend, so why not seize what must be a good opportunity? Why even question that or look askance at the idea? Even the most faithful Catholic craves companionship; we are social beings after all. Perhaps a paid speaker who does the circuit sees things differently.

  2. John-767131 February 3, 2012 Reply

    With all due respect, the theme of your essay doesn’t seem to make much sense. Why would one attend a conference for Catholic singles, (irrespective of what you categorize as being “single” means) and put forth the proposition that meeting people is secondary to building a community in Christ, whatever that means? It seems to me that the main purpose is in fact to meet someone. Isn’t that the purpose? Building a community in Christ can, and is, achieved through other venues. I am afraid you have given the impression that meeting someone at a singles event is somehow wrong, or worse, sinful. It’s not “hooking up.” Your assertion is a bit of a zero-sum game. Perhaps the thrust of the story should have been that the event fostered an atmosphere of men and women actually meeting and finding they like each other enough to continue to pursue what was begun at the conference, if that actually happened. Doesn’t sound like much fun to have a conference where everyone was trying to out-Catholic each other. Never gonna get to the altar that way.

    • Linda-789001 February 7, 2012 Reply

      Thank you for your comment. I have enjoyed reading everyones comments who attended the conference and I just might go next year.

  3. Brenda-163384 February 3, 2012 Reply

    I went to the conference last weekend and it was the first Catholic Singles Conference I ever attended. Before I went I was very nervous and thought that the event might feel like a “shopping for a spouse” kind of feeling. I thought that men and women would be checking each other out etc. etc. I was put at ease when Mary Beth talked the first night that we were at the conference for our vocation, not necessarily to meet our spouse. I could then take a big sigh of relief that a “singles conference” doesn’t mean that it’s just for meeting a possible spouse. The conference talks were very helpful and all the people there were respectful and curteous and I loved the dance as I did not leave feeling “rejected” like has happened many times at secular events. I don’t think there was a woman there who was not asked to dance at least once. Mary Beth I agree that I wonder if there is a different word that can be used instead of “singles”. I have a very different and much more positive thought in my mind now about what it means to be “single” than I did before I attended the conference. I think I kind of defined single as “in need of a spouse” or “looking for someone” as if a person’s life is not whole or complete unless they are a priest, religious or married.

    • Linda-789001 February 7, 2012 Reply

      Thank you for sharing. I’m thinking it’s something i would like to attend next year.

  4. Daniel-292385 February 5, 2012 Reply

    great reflection Mary. I was at the event and completely agree. It was so refreshing to just be around others who shared in the same life journey as myself… all together sharing in Christ’s love and grace.

  5. Stacey-101742 February 5, 2012 Reply

    The kind of job I hold , doesn’t really allow for me to take time off during the school year without penalty of some kind . But meeting and sharing our singleness with prayer and our shared faith , I would imagine be a nice experience . =)

  6. Linda-789001 February 7, 2012 Reply

    I liked you story and it has peaked my interest. Thanks for telling it.

  7. Mike-646924 February 10, 2012 Reply

    Nice article; Maybe someday i will attend the; “The National Catholic Singles Conference.” Mike “peace”!!

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