Everyone experiences being single at some point in their life. Single Catholics searching for their life partner might sometimes find themselves wondering if a marriage vocation really is the right path for them. However, choosing to live life as a single person can also be a vocation that’s overlooked.
“I think that the Church recognizes that there is a single state that can be a very valid state and it can be one of service,” says Father Robert Vidal, pastor emeritus at St. Anne’s Church in Seal Beach. “It can be one of being involved in the community of helping others. I think that the Church recognizes that very much so.”
The Church offers single Catholics a place to belong and contribute to the life of their parish through endless possibilities in the ministries of music, catechism, liturgy, and outreach to name a few. Cultivating friendships with others involved in these ministries can also fill the void that singles sometimes feel. Married couples or families in the parish can also reach out to singles and offer their hospitality to help singles feel welcomed.
Father Vidal suggests single Catholics could also look to participating in a ministry on a global scale.
“Get connected with a number of our different apostolates that some of our religious communities have in going out into mission lands and serving the poor. These are ministries singles can participate in,” he says. Father Vidal recommends looking into programs for lay missionaries offered by the Maryknolls or Franciscans. Missionaries in these communities are trained and then given the opportunity to serve the poor in other countries.
So, how does one determine if marriage is the right vocation or not?
“Lots of prayer before our Lord and the Blessed Sacrament is essential in discernment,” he says. “When a person comes to me looking for spiritual direction, I help them through the process.”
Michael Donaldson, director of Pastoral Care, wants to explore how the Diocese can also help single Catholics with discernment. It was an idea he often thought about and discussed with colleagues. Not too long ago, he formed an advisory committee designed to revamp how the Diocese provides outreach to married couples and to those preparing for marriage. It is made up of leaders from around the Diocese involved in marriage preparation and enrichment. Representatives from the young adult ministry, a ministry within parishes that are often filled with many single Catholics, were also included in the committee in hopes of finding ways that the Diocese can help single Catholics discern marriage as well as support those choosing the vocation of being single.
“Myself and the program coordinator for young adult ministry have been saying that marriage prep happens when people are ready to get married but we should be thinking of it earlier. How do we help people discern it? How do we help people look at the vocation and see how that vocation is a calling from the Lord and can be very fruitful if properly discerned,” he explains.
Donaldson adds that although there are many programs offered to help couples who are engaged and preparing for marriage, he acknowledges that more work needs to be done to support Catholics who are single.
“The Church does recognize the vocation of being single and it’s a tough calling,” he says. “They’re choosing to live a life of chastity, celibacy because we understand sexuality is expressed within the context of marriage which is something that’s not really highlighted and promoted in our secular society and I think that’s the challenge. How do you support those who feel that they’re called to single life and continue to encourage and to follow what that vocation means in the Catholic Church?”
For single Catholics who haven’t chosen the vocation of being single and have a desire to continue to search for a spouse in the hopes of marrying, the Diocese offers the same programs that are also offered to engaged couples. There are workshops geared towards equipping individuals with the tools essential to being in a successful relationship. One such recent program was Blessed and Broke, an educational lecture series offered through the Diocese of Orange Young Adult Ministry in partnership with Farmers and Merchants Bank, that focuses on financial topics such as investing, credit and credit reports, achieving financial independence and saving for a home. “Important to know before you go into a committed relationship,” says Donaldson. He added that he also wants to work on creating more education on the theology of the body.
“It is my hope that we are going to collaborate a lot more with our young adult ministry and that’s one of our goals,” says Donaldson. “Myself and the program coordinator for young adult ministry are really on board in trying to see how we can become more intentional in our ministry in working together.”