Couples get in the baking mood on Date Night at the Newman Centre. Photo courtesy Newman Centre Catholic Chaplaincy

Date Night sets couples on a vocational journey

  • February 9, 2023

The team of the Newman Centre Catholic Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto was struck by inspiration while planning activities for the 2022-23 academic year. They realized a lot of the program’s alumni have met, fallen in love and even married at the centre.

“These were great love stories in a lot of ways,” said Rachelle Ezechiels, the Newman Centre’s operations manager. “We thought ‘why don’t we give our parishioners, married couples and engaged couples something to journey towards so there is guidance and structure in knowing how to discern the vocation of marriage while you’re dating.’ You also get support through having other couples journeying with you as well.”

The Newman Centre Date Night Series debuted on Oct. 19, 2022 with an event called Theology of…Dance? Ezechiels said the team wanted to set a fun tone for the series with the initial gathering. 

“We had an instructor who was really familiar with English country-style dancing. He taught our participants some moves. It was that Jane Austen style of dancing from the era of Pride and Prejudice with couples dancing together in groups of six or eight. The dancing was accompanied with a talk about understanding the movements, the flow between male and female and connecting that to dating and how you court one another in a very structured and wholesome way.”

A month later, on Nov. 16, a second date night was held. It was entitled Striving for Sainthood…Together! The night centred on meditating on the lives of the saints, specifically the married couples, and how they can become models for young Catholics seeking matrimony today. On Dec. 21, the couples did some fun baking together, enjoyed a meal for two and learned how to bring Christ into Christmas celebrations at A Newman Centre’s Family Christmas.

Navigating Life Together was the theme of the most recent date night on Jan. 18. Participant couples, whether they be boyfriend and girlfriend, fiancées or husband and wife, contemplated how to handle the different hills and valleys of life together. They spoke about individual prayer, and praying together as a couple. 

“Participants said this was one of the most enjoyable nights yet,” said Ezechiels. “They got time in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and they got a nice blessing as individuals and as a couple from Fr. Mark (Kolosowski).”

The next date night is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 15 starting at 6 p.m. at the Newman Centre on Toronto’s George Street in the heart of the University of Toronto campus. This Valentine’s Day edition features dinner, fellowship and an opportunity to hear stories and ask questions of Catholic couples with varying years of marriage under their belt. This event, like all date nights, costs $50 per couple.

“They will speak about their vocational journeys and how they keep Christ at the centre of their relationship,” said Ezechiels. “This night was actually a request from our participants. We asked them a couple months ago what they would like to see in one of our next nights, and they wanted to meet other couples who could give them the goods and straight talk about marriage.”

Ezechiels shared some anonymous testimonials about the Date Night Series with The Catholic Register to provide a sense of what the young people are taking away from these gatherings.

One participant praised the talks as “beautiful, deep and intimate.” 

Ezechiels said the friendships that have bloomed might be the best success story of the Newman Centre Date Night Series.

“A lot of them say that they struggle to find other couples who are actually trying to fulfill the Church’s teaching on chastity before marriage. A lot of them are struggling to find others who are navigating through the secular world in the same way. And really having that support from each other helps them to better achieve in growing towards God as individuals and grounding themselves in their faith first.”

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