A problem arises when we speak of singles. Do we mean those in their 20s or 30s who may or may not still be living with their parents and who eventually plan to marry? Or are we thinking of the newly widowed or divorced? Or is it those who remain single for life?
Certainly each of these groups is in a different situation and requires a different kind of attention.
It is true that single adults may be less visible in our churches as children tend to command attention. One does not hear much about the vocation of singles nor often see singles carrying the gifts at the Procession of the Gifts.
On the other hand, singles serve in various ministries as readers, Eucharistic ministers, and so are visibly present to the assembled community.
It is children on whom the parish must focus for sacramental preparation: Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation. To educate the young in the faith, Catholic schools have been a mainstay in society and, in some countries at great cost.
When you think of it, it is natural that the Church spends much of its time and energy on children and young adults as they are the ones who will remain for tomorrow's Church.
Take a second look
Perhaps the Church should take a second look at its programs and priorities. Maybe adults should be well-schooled in the knowledge of their faith so that, as parents, they can pass it on to their children.
Maybe too easily, we have put the onus on others to develop the faith in our children and teach them. Of course, we need the whole community to help the young come to a strong faith.
In addition, all need to continue learning as they mature in their faith. I have heard Catholics with a PhD say that their religious faith and knowledge was at the grade school level. This is truly unfortunate.
In the past, when we spoke of vocations, we used to refer to religious life and the married state, but today we include the single state to which God calls as well. Singles serve God and often devote their lives to a parent or other needy causes much as do sisters, priests and married people.
I think the problem in our churches is more a matter of inadvertent forgetfulness than discrimination. But then, in general, we do not seem to be very good at making people feel welcome and needed. As Catholics, we must strive to become more conscious of every segment of our parishes. With the growing numbers of the singles in our population, it would be wise to pay attention.
The first step in a solution may be as simple as raising awareness, which I hope your question will do. The next step, of course, is to do something about it and parish census forms are a good beginning.
But let's not forget that all who are able, whether single or married, need to take responsibility to become fully a part of Church life and not wait for someone else to do it for them.
The basic motive for including everyone is that we believe that each person is precious in the eyes of God. Each is created in the image of God, is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is redeemed by Christ.
We are all one
Our actions must reflect this belief, as well as our belief that community in worship and in life is an integral part of being Christian. With St. Paul, we can then say that there are no barriers, whether Jew or Greek, male or female, married or single for "we are all one in Jesus Christ."