A group of Catholic singles mingle at a U.S. National Catholic Singles Conference. CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek

Sr. Helena Burns: The wonderful world of singlehood

  • April 14, 2021

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The wonderful world of singlehood

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

The Church loves you, single people!

Why am I making this statement of the obvious? Perhaps because it’s not so obvious. Many single adults feel disenfranchised, neglected, even ignored in the Catholic Church. Why do they feel this way? Because so many groups, activities, announcements, etc., are geared toward couples, families, children and youth. Some singles even feel that the Church is signalling to them that they should be married, there’s no place for single people in the Church and if you’re not married, basically “you’re on your own,” pastorally speaking.

So what’s going on with singlehood today? For starters, there are more adult singles in North America than ever before. Not just young adults, but also those approaching middle age. For example, close to 50 per cent of New York City  adults have never been married and more than 50 per cent of NYC households are single adults, living alone — a truly startling phenomenon in the history of humankind! However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t sexually active — which is a whole other story and statistic, and a big part of the reason the Big Apple finds itself in this situation.

But let’s not forget that “singles” also includes the widowed, separated and divorced: people whose vocations are/were marriage, but circumstances, conflicts and choices intervened. When my dad died, my mother moaned: “I’m only half a person now!” I told her: “No, Ma, you’re a whole person, but you and Dad were so united that it just feels that way. Your vocation in life was marriage, and now you aren’t able to live that out any more — you never wanted to be single!” (Incidentally, my mother calls herself a “onesie” now.)

Many who are single today — for whatever reason — don’t want to be. They were married and their spouse died. They were married and it didn’t work out. They want to be married and they can’t find a suitable partner. Whatever the case may be in a person’s life who is thwarted from following their vocation, it can be exceptionally painful. This suffering can be exacerbated by others’ attitudes, ribbing and comments, especially the point-blank question: “When are you going to get married?”

Singles can help themselves immensely (especially those who are hoping to get married someday) by maintaining an optimistic, altruistic attitude, and not constantly talking about the woes of being single. Go ahead and give suggestions (with a smile) about how to be more inclusive where it seems singles are truly being overlooked. Start a singles’ group if there isn’t one in your church or locale. Start an alternative singles’ group focused on a particular interest (e.g., hiking) or charity (e.g., orphans, homeless, pro-life). Join online singles groups like NationalCatholicSingles.com that have in-person conferences. Include yourself everywhere you want to be (harder for introverts than extroverts). Find at least one single friend you can go places with. Take advantage of Catholic dating sites like CatholicMatch.com (I personally know four couples — two American, two Canadian — who met there).

See what you can do to help parents, families and kiddos. One of the reasons the Church spends so much time emphasizing and assisting marriage/family life is because the munchkins are the future. For anyone (like myself) whose genes have no future, we need to exercise our spiritual motherhood and spiritual fatherhood to assist and build up families in whatever way we can in these challenging times. Enjoy the perks of being single: more time for prayer, the ability to choose your own apostolate(s), more opportunity to be single-hearted (see 1 Corinthians 7:32-40) and more availability to volunteer and get involved in whatever matters to you, wherever you want to make a difference.

As a single person, you can spend yourself in the Church for God and souls! Find what is life-giving to you and others at the same time and pour yourself out! Go for it! Join (or start) a Bible study or a parish-based outreach such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Legion of Mary and seasonal food and clothing drives. Visit nursing homes, teach adult literacy, be a youth ministry leader or ask the pastor what he envisions or needs help with for the parish.

If you are single, you’re not “neither here nor there,” not “neither fish nor fowl,” not “in between” states of life. You are a consecrated (by your baptism) child of God; a complete man or woman of God. God validates you. God loves you. The Church loves you. Just as you are today.

(Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. www.HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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