Single Catholics connect through speed dating

By  Lianne Milan Bernardo, Youth Speak News
  • October 18, 2012

TORONTO - Faith Connections and the Newman Young Adult Ministry are co-hosting “A Date to Remember,” a Catholic speed dating event where single adults can gather and get to know one another.

Speed dating is an activity where participants spend four to five minutes chatting with a person before moving along to the next person. Organizers offer a list of suggested questions to help participants during each session.

Then participants use scorecards placed in envelopes to let organizers know with whom they wish to share their contact information.

Geared towards Catholic singles between the ages of 19 and 39, A Date to Remember draws people who are formerly and currently affiliated with the University of Toronto and the Newman Centre.

“We have young adults asking for an event like this so we try to include that yearly,” said Kelly Bourke, interim program director for Faith Connections, a branch of Fontbonne Ministries.

Both ministries are preparing to hold their third collaborated speed dating event on Oct. 27 at the Newman Centre. The first speed dating night was held last summer.

While there are many socials and mixers hosted by both ministries throughout the year, speed dating provides a special venue for single Catholics.

“It’s an opportunity for singles to help develop new friendships that could develop into something else,” said Gem Ofreneo from the Newman Young Adult Ministry.

Kevin Lo, 27, participated in A Date to Remember after learning about it from a Faith Connections newsletter.

“I was a bit hesitant at first because of its non-traditional approach for finding a potential spouse, but I decided to give it a try,” Lo said. “I thought it would be a good chance to meet some new people and, particularly, fellow young Catholics.”

Space is limited due to the size of the venue and organizers have had to turn people away in the past.

“During the first year it was easy to have women sign on right from the beginning when we advertised,” Bourke said. “(With) the men, there were still spaces in the final week. This year I see men and women signing up (from the start).”

“I had never attended a speed dating event before so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Lo said. “However, the event was well organized. The organizers and volunteers did a great job in making the participants feel welcome and comfortable.”

These events provide a friendly and low-pressure environment for participants.

“Men were saying that it takes the pressure off of asking someone for their phone number,” Ofreneo said.

While exclusive to Catholic singles, the dance that follows is open to all young adults. The dance also works as a fundraiser where proceeds will go to the two ministries to fund other activities such as Newman’s outreach programs.

The organizers aim not only to fulfill young adults’ requests for such events, but also to host them in a way that upholds Catholic values.

“Ultimately we say when it comes to something like speed dating... can we bring something there that allows a really healthy and faith-filled idea of meeting new people without perhaps the agenda of ‘Do they make my list?’ ” said Bourke.

She hopes participants will be “open to the possibilities of friendship (and) romance,” and will “be able to be open to truly meeting new people.”

“It’s core to our faith how we connect to other people as strangers, as friends or otherwise.”

Ofreneo encourages single young adults to attend, “but not with the goal in mind of getting a date right away, but to start new friendships and go from there and see where that goes.”

Lo recommends the event.

“Regardless of whether you find that special someone, there is a chance that you may develop many new friendships,” he said.

Lo advises participants to keep an open mind and to pray before and after the event.

“View all ‘dates’ and potential matches as brothers and sisters in Christ,” Lo said. “Be yourself, have fun and smile.”

(Bernardo, 26, lives in Toronto, Ont.)

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