TORONTO – Where are all the single Catholic girls? That's what friends of Matthew Sanders wanted to know. Sanders went years without finding someone he wanted to marry.
"I didn't really know any Catholic girls," said Sanders, who is special projects manager at the office of the moderator of the curia in the Toronto Archdiocese.
One day after Vespers at St. Basil's Church in downtown Toronto, a friend invited him to a pub night, and there she was, his future wife. He had seen her before at church.
"I knew she was a faithful Catholic. She went to Mass regularly. She's smart, she's beautiful. I went after her like a tyrannosaurus rex. And I don't know what possessed me to do that, but I'm glad I did," he said.
Sanders has been married for a year and wants his single Catholic friends to find the answer to their question.
"We all go to Mass and I'm sure we see other people who could be young Catholics who are single, but then again, it just seems like an impossible place to try and make a connection," said Sanders.
So Sanders and other young adult Catholics, many from the group known as 808, named after the apartment number of one of the founding members, began to organize singles mixers.
The first mixer was held in the spring of 2012, partly inspired by a similar activity run by Faith Connections, an organization that hosts faith-related activities for young adults, said Angela Mungai, pastoral assistant at York University's Catholic chaplaincy.
About 25 people attended and Mungai had volunteered to lend a helping hand. But they were short one girl for their speed dating setup, so she stepped in. That was the first time she had an in-depth conversation with her now boyfriend.
Mungai had spoken to him before at 808 events, but that night they clicked and danced.
"We get so stuck in our daily routine, doing our own thing, getting wrapped up in our own schedule," she said. "Sometimes you don't have the option to meet somebody.
"This is a way of saying, 'Hi, I'm open to a relationship,' and if someone here is open to a relationship, we can talk about that or at the very least build friendships."
Mungai has seen some people become good friends from past mixers, and others enter into relationships.
Sanders believes one reason Mass attendance has decreased is that going to Mass is not part of the family tradition.
IT'S A FAMILY THING
"Suppose you're Catholic and you wish to continue to practise your faith through marriage, it helps to be with someone who carries the same values. It's not always necessary, but it helps.
"My friends wanted to be with someone who was Catholic because they wanted to practise their faith with their spouse," he said. "The solution just may be Catholic singles who want to be in a Catholic relationship and raise their kids Catholic, put them in a room together and hope they connect."
The second mixer last Christmas drew about 80 people, said Sanders. The third was Aug. 10. The events no longer use speed dating as a method of encouraging attendees to mix.
"The idea was we know you're out there, we've seen you; let's just see if we can convince you to come to an event where you can mingle. Everyone's there presumably for the same reason," said Sanders.