God has given us the gift of life! To live our lives well involves commitments and decisions that can be daunting and intimidating, even more so if you are trying to navigate it alone. To be single, without a companion or helpmate, is a singular experience in the world and in the Church.
You may want to go for a hike but you don’t because it may not be safe to do so on your own. You’d love a steak dinner and a glass of wine, but you don’t want to go to a restaurant alone. The hostess says, “Just one?” You feel the pity eyes of the people around you. You stare at your phone the entire time to not feel so alone.
Alone in the Church?
The same can go for getting involved in a parish community or diocesan church. You’d love to go to the respect life banquet, but yet again you don't, because you don’t have anyone to accompany you. The list goes on and on…
Around this time last year, I was flooded with dilemmas like these. I had recently moved back to my hometown after being away for more than thirteen years. I had a core group of friends when I left. When I moved back, it wasn't the same. My high school friends had moved away or had taken different paths in life and we no longer shared the same focus.
I was thirty, single, without my dearest friends, and in a community in which I needed to start over. I wanted to do this with spiritual and moral integrity—I needed support, and I knew I needed it from the Church.
How the Church Can Support Single People
Thankfully, I received support from being in relationship with three particular people in the Church: my spiritual director, the parish priest, and the director of religious education. They taught me what I think every single person needs in order to thrive in their state in life. What they taught me is what, in my opinion, the Church needs to articulate more and more to single people:
1. Encouraging people to live singleness well.
I remember talking with my spiritual director about the struggle of being alone and the hesitations I was having about attending events and activities on my own. He shared with me that in his parish growing up, the most beautiful and inspiring individuals for him and his siblings were people who were single. They were faithful, gentle, and generous individuals. Father explained to me that by them living their singleness well, they inspired him to give of his life through the priesthood. Generosity attracts generosity, he explained. When I was hesitant to do things alone, he simply said: “Just go!” This worked for me.
2. Acknowledging that single people have much to give.
Over and over again, I have been thanked by people in all states of life for my service to the Church. They have recognized that at this point in my life, I am not giving of myself to a spouse, children, or religious order. They see that I am giving of myself in the ways I am able to in the parish community, whether it be through teaching, organizing events, serving as lector or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and so on. Because I am not yet married or a religious, I have much to offer as a single person that I may not necessarily be able to offer if I were married or consecrated.
3. Being intentional about inviting singles to get involved and serve.
After having been back in my hometown community for a few months, the director of religious education invited me to teach CCD. I truly believe this is the best thing a community can do to affirm, encourage, and bring singles and young people alike into the life of the community. It gave me a mission and a way to enter into relationship with others in the parish. It motivated me to keep returning to the parish each week, instead of church hopping.
4. Listening to singles’ ideas and providing offerings that are attractive.
I was at the parish for only a few months when I was in conversation with the parish priest about offerings for singles and young adults. We discussed the possibility of forming a young adult group with a particular focus on Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. The priest saw these ideas through and it provided an opportunity for not only my own spiritual growth, but for others' growth as well. The priest listened and cared to provide offerings that would be appealing.
Living Single Life to the Full
God has given us life. It is up to us to live it to the full. If you are single, your state in life is not incidental to God’s providence, which intends you to be a gift to the Church and to the world. Your state in life gives you a unique opportunity to serve and to love, to witness and to celebrate. To feel sorry for yourself is to diminish or reject the grace God holds for you to build up His Body. We need each other to be the Body of Christ. Now. You may pout about your vocation for one more minute, but never again. To do so is to miss it!
Where are my single ladies? What would you add to the list? How can the Church support you?
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Amanda Zurface resides in Pueblo, Colorado, where she serves as the Vice-Chancellor for the Diocese of Pueblo. She also serves as the Catholic Content Specialist for Covenant Eyes. Amanda holds a License and MA in Canon Law and a BA in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. She is the co-author of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture, Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure and Transformed by Beauty.