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BIS LIVES

How the Church Can Support Single People

how can the church reach out to single people

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?

Amanda Zurface is the Catholic Campaign Coordinator for Covenant Eyes. Amanda holds a License and MA in Canon Law and a BA in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. Amanda has served in various roles within the Catholic Church both in the United States and internationally. She is the co-author of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture and Transformed by Beauty. She resides in Zanesville, Ohio, where she also serves as the Director of Faith Formation at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Melissa H-K
    March 6, 2018 at 8:22 am

    As a widow, I was hesitant to read this, because I figured it would be about young people. But it mostly isn’t! Yay for you! Thanks for some great tips, too!

  • Reply
    a_garza1022
    March 6, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    I am recently single after being in a 5 year relationship with the man that I believed I was going to marry. I too like Melissa H-K was hesitant to read this because its still hard to understand what went wrong or what’s going on and I wasn’t sure I could handle reading something like this, but your blog is spot on. Our church family supports us and cares for us to help with the season of singleness. I believe one thing that could help us as women in the church is to have a women’s bible study, host women’s/men’s retreat, or host a potluck opened to the women of the church. Although they may not all be single at the time its a great way to connect and form relationships that will help all of us. We have a young adults group, but its always to meet at a bar and sometimes you’re just not up for that or there are typically more women involved than men which brings me back to hosting women/men only groups. During my relationship I always knew something was missing and that was other women who were likeminded and had a strong belief in our Lord. When the relationship ended God sent an abundance of women into my life when I attend our parish women’s retreat. I can say that I have made many new friends who didn’t know anything about me, but have been at my side this past month helping me heal from the heartbreak. I hope I answered the question at the end of your post. 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie
    March 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    I find being single in the church challenging as well. I’ve been a member of my parish for 7 years now and the first 4 were while working in the office. That gave me a unique way to be more involved and for people to know me. Now that I work somewhere else and am ‘just a parishioner’ at the parish, I encounter some of your same challenges. I travel for work, but when I’m in town, I attend daily Mass and feel like I have a home in the parish. When I’ve been traveling for a while or going to other churches for Sunday Mass for a few weeks, I feel more out of place. I’m not able to help by teaching every week, but I do help with our youth ministry program. It provides me a little more flexibility. I think us singles in the church need to bring community to each other as well. It’s difficult to find our way, but not being a member of the parish isn’t an option.

  • Reply
    Angela
    June 12, 2018 at 7:44 am

    I think it’s extremely important that married women not be allowed to treat singles like they are trying to steal their husbands. I am married but my husband doesn’t attend church and I sat behind one couple and the lumpy old hag was so visibly hostile to me that I wished I had a thumbtack to put in her pew before she sat down.

  • Reply
    Burke
    July 5, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Thank you for this. A a single Catholic man in my 40’s, I see plenty of activities in the diocese for young adults but very little for those of us who are a little bit older.

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