Courtship goes digital: Catholic spouses share stories of meeting online

Local couple, Patrick and Abby Bernhardt. With St. Valentine’s Day around the corner, and many Catholic singles looking for love, local couples say they overcame their initial skepticism to find their future spouses through online Catholic dating services. (Family photos)

Local couples say technology can help like-minded Catholics find each other

Grace Turner | Special to The Michigan Catholic

METRO DETROIT — While the traditions surrounding St. Valentine’s Day haven’t changed much over the years, one thing is for certain: meeting eligible Catholic singles isn’t as easy as it used to be.

With a busier and busier world, and fewer young adults attending parish functions than in the past, more and more young adult and single Catholics are turning to the world of technology to find that “special someone.”

Local couple, Patrick and Taylor Kelly. (Family photos)

That was especially true for Patrick Kelly, 28, who by 2013 was sick of trying to find dates in the bar scene. His cousin was a link to a local Catholic group, but after he dropped out, Kelly had no one to introduce him to the other members.

He decided to try online dating, but was dissatisfied when women who called themselves Catholic did not share the same views or weren’t practicing.

It was then that he decided to try, a dating website specifically for practicing Catholics. Like typical dating sites, it sought to match singles based on their answers to profile questions, but instead asked about beliefs and faith, gauging the user’s feelings on Church teachings such as the Eucharist, contraception, the sanctity of life, papal infallibility, premarital sex, the Immaculate Conception and holy orders. Other users can view these answers with the rest of the profile, so the “big questions” are already answered.

Kelly went on a couple of dates with women he met on the site before he met his future wife, Taylor.

It didn’t start out as well as they would have hoped, however. After the couple planned their first date to an apple orchard, Patrick, with much apologizing and with good reason, cancelled. Taylor didn’t plan on talking to him again, but couldn’t get him out of her head. She playfully texted him that the Michigan State Spartans were going to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the two replanned their date.

“I knew it from the moment I met him,” said Taylor Kelly, 25. “He was the gold one.”

Patrick told his brother the same thing after their first date.

The couple were married Oct. 3, 2015, and on Aug. 28, 2016, they welcomed baby Mark to the family.

“It’s been a very fast three years, and it’s been awesome, and we’re very blessed,” Taylor said.

The couple said they share their story with other single Catholics and encourage them to try Catholic online dating, even though Patrick was skeptical at first. However, as technology advances and it’s easier to reach people who are far away, Patrick said it’s just a part of how today’s world works.

“It makes so much sense,” he said. “It’s so logical.”

The family now lives in Jackson and attends St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish.

The story was similar for the Bernhardts — Abby, 26, and Patrick, 31. Both were looking for someone who was serious about the Catholic faith. They started using and met for their first date at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Dearborn in August 2013.

“We talked about everything that made us tick,” Patrick Bernhardt said. He added that “[we] bared our souls” because neither wanted to waste the other’s time on dates that would go nowhere.

It wasn’t a waste. The couple got married on May 21, 2016, and attend Divine Child Parish in Dearborn and are updating the house they just bought.

Both suggested being patient with online dating — or dating in general.

“Just trust in God’s plan for your life, for your future,” Abby Bernhardt said.

Patrick Bernhardt added the site is better for meeting people than keeping in touch, especially since users who don’t pay for a subscription have limited messaging.

Local couple, Matthew and Sarah Hunt. (Family photos)

For Matthew Hunt, 33, a widower, Catholic online dating was also a way to usher in a new life chapter. There weren’t many Catholic women where he lived in Kentucky, so he joined without much luck. He was about to delete his account when he found Sarah, 27.

Sarah was fed up with dating and told God she wanted to stay single for a while. God disagreed; Matthew had messaged her the same night.

The two started talking and Sarah flew to Kentucky to meet Matthew for Labor Day in 2013. They dated long-distance for six months, but Matthew knew Sarah was the one after three months. So he got a job in Michigan as a youth minister at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills, and the couple were married on April 17, 2015. Their first child, Cecilia Rose, is 6 months old.

The couple adds that the site doesn’t just help singles find each other; Sarah admits that while some dates didn’t work out, she remains friends with many like-minded people she met.

“Even if you’re not dating, it’s a good kind of vocational tool,” Matthew added.

Local couple, Bob and Michelle Foster. (Family photos)

Online dating isn’t just for millennials, though. Michelle Foster, 54, met her husband Bob Foster, 57, through Their first date was to Somerset Collection and an art show in Birmingham at the end of September 2000. It was only a few weeks before Bob’s three sons from a previous marriage, who were 9, 11 and 13, joined in on the couple’s activities.

At first, Michelle was hesitant to answer Bob because of his sons.

“All went well,” she said. “They were great kids then. They are great young adults now.”

Michelle and Bob got married on Oct. 6, 2001, and two more sons, now 14 and 11, were added to the Foster bunch, and the family’s faith helped glue it together. All five boys attended or attend Catholic school, and Michelle and Bob, who live in Brownstown, are parishioners at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Rockwood.


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Young Marrieds Dinner Date Nights

Catholic married couples are invited to two dinner date nights sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Marriage, Family and Pro-Life. “The First Years and Beyond” date nights, designed specifically for couples within the first 10 years of marriage, will feature dinner, a presentation and fellowship with other couples. Tickets are $50 per couple, and babysitting is provided.

Date: Saturday, March 18 (6-9 p.m.)

Where: St. Malachy Parish, 14115 E. 14 Mile Road, Sterling Heights

Topic: “Intimate Graces: Bringing Out the Best in Your Marriage”

Date: Friday, May 19 (6-9 p.m.)

Where: St. John Neumann Parish, 44800 Warren Road, Canton

Topic: “Love Never Fails”