Matthew Sanders, with his wife Cheridan, wants to help young Catholics find their future spouse. Photo courtesy of Matthew Sanders

Catholic matchmaking

  • November 7, 2014

TORONTO - Matthew Sanders is calling the young and the Catholic to the Newman Centre for the re-launch of Catholic Singles Socials.

Once held twice a year in the party room of an apartment complex near St. Michael’s Cathedral, this singles mixer already has two marriages attributed to it and organizers hope with a re-branding of the event, its matchmaking success rate will rise.

“I think Pope Francis recognizes, as our cardinal does... that the future of the Church is highly contingent upon Catholic families coming together and raising the next generation. If it’s a priority of Pope Francis, then we should make it a priority,” said Sanders, Special Projects Manager at the Office of the Moderator of the Curia in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“This culture we live in does not embrace many of the Catholic principles that we do. And I think as Catholics, we’re called to evangelize our culture. It’s going to be a lot harder to evangelize our culture if there’s a whole generation of young people growing up that, because their parents never met other Catholics, walked away from the faith.”

The Church used to have more of a hand in matchmaking.

“Back in the day, from what I understand, the parish was the centre of community. So families were always hanging out at the parish for dances and all kinds of things. And so naturally, guys and girls meet. And I think over the course of the years, the parish stopped being that centre of local community life,” he said.

Sanders adds that these days Catholics don’t view church as a place to meet their future spouse. He first saw his wife at Mass at St. Basil’s Church. When he finally had the chance to introduce himself to her in a casual setting among other young Catholics, he seized it without hesitation. Married in May 2012, Sanders set out to help his friends find “the one,” and that was the origin of Catholic Singles Socials first held in March 2012.

“We have to start rethinking where we spend our time. I think we’re drawn to certain cliques and certain events because that’s what’s cool or that’s where we’re going to meet cool people. I’ve found that if you take the time to go out to some of these Catholic events,” you will find “cool people in a conventional sense and cool people in a completely non-traditional way,” said Sanders. “I encourage people to keep in mind that some of the best people I know I’ve met through events like this.”

With a sleek new web site and social media presence, a Catholic hub for young adults as the venue and the power of word of mouth, Catholic Singles Socials will be held on Nov. 14 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Newman Centre on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus for those age 19 and up. Organizers ask for a $20 donation with half of the profits going to the Newman Centre and the other half being re-invested back into the event to improve it.

“Let’s deliberately create an event where Catholics who are looking for someone can come and hang out in a party atmosphere and just get to know one another, casually,” he said.

So far, as someone who is “plugged into the Catholic circuit” in downtown Toronto, Sanders says the Catholic socials are already attracting a lot of new faces from outlying areas of the city and the GTA. People are bringing their friends, he says, and the new venue will be easier to locate.

Most of the people who attend the event are Catholic, while a few are from other Christian denominations.

“We’re branding it as a Catholic event. But I know other Christians are in the same place,” said Sanders. “If you’re going to show up to this event, you should be open to the fact that you’re going to be predominantly with Catholics.”

He adds that this event isn’t limited to those who attend church weekly: “You may not be going to church every Sunday. You’re not really sure about the place that faith should have in your life, but you know you want to agree with your significant other on some issues like raising your children and whether they should go to church or not, whether they should go through the Sacraments of Initiation. And I think you know if you come to an event like this, more than likely you’re going to bump into someone who believes the same things as you.”

Even if people attend and don’t automatically make a romantic connection, they’ve got nothing to lose, a host of potential new friends to make and a new Catholic community to join, says Sanders.

“The more I hang out with this generation, the more I realize that they really do want to find someone who shares similar principles and such. I think there’s a real need for something like a singles night and Newman just seems like the logical place to do it.”

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