Single convert- not connecting with other Catholics

Hi! I’m 47 and I’ve never been married. I grew up in a Baptist church where everyone was extremely social. I went through the RCIA class 15 years ago in California (where there were a lot of Catholics) and I was so happy with my conversion to the Catholic church. Then I immediately moved to the south where Catholics are a minority.

I haven’t been able to connect with other Catholics at all. I don’t have any Catholic friends. I’ve never even been to a Catholic wedding, and I’ve given up hope that I will ever have a date with a Catholic man. I know only two or three single Catholic men in the area, and they have all been quite clear that they are NOT interested in socializing. I’ve tried Catholic online dating sites, which were extremely disappointing, to say the least.

I have to laugh, because e-harmony “matched” me up with one of these guys, but every time he sees me, he runs away! I know these guys are looking, because I see their profiles on dating sites, but apparently they’re quite skittish in real life!

The parish I go to is connected to a school, and everyone seems to ignore my existence. Every time I’ve volunteered for anything, I’ve been ignored. Nobody ever calls. I broke my ankles about 7 months ago, and when I e-mailed people from the church about it, nobody responded or asked me if I needed anything. :frowning: The Catholics here seem so cold and unfriendly. My mom was interested in converting, but she was so turned off by the cold atmosphere, that she won’t even consider joining the church now.

Sometimes I go to social events at other churches with my Protestant friends, just so I won’t be completely isolated from people! I get so envious of my friends who go to churches where the members are loving and kind to them. My sister has a son who has muscular dystrophy, and she needed a ramp built for his wheel chair. It was the Methodist church who came over and built it for her. Any time my family needs help, it’s always the Protestant churches who come through for us.

My family is so disgusted with the Catholic church here that they keep trying to convince me to leave the church and go to a Protestant one.

I’m very frustrated. I have struggled at times with wanting to leave the Catholic church out of sheer loneliness, but I do believe that God wants me to remain Catholic.

I’m so lonely going to Mass here. Nobody will greet me or sit by me. It’s like I’m invisible! If I try to talk to the priest about it, I get a lecture about how “The Catholic church is not a social club!”

Would really like prayers about this! I don’t have the money to move anywhere else. Thanks!

I’m so sorry you’ve been in this situation. It sounds really hard. For years it was exactly the same for me - I never met anyone from the parish and was very lonely.

Can you find a different parish? I know that we are not supposed to parish shop, but that helped me and I was glad I did it. I met wonderful people and made friends. Maybe you could have a little look in other Catholic churches in your area and see if they are more welcoming of single people your age and happy to include you into the parish life.

I hope things change for the better soon. God bless.

Goldberry, I have no advise but I do wish to express my sympathy. I am in pretty much the same boat and quite frankly feel like a social outcast at my church as well too the point that I have considered leaving to more friendly Protestant church. What keeps me attending mass is the fact that I, too, know that God wants me to be Catholic and I have very little tolerance for charismatic services.

Becoming Catholic means you have a new, different life interiorly. But exteriorly, don’t expect your life to change radically, at least not immediately. You are looking at, and get discouraged by, temporal things.

I am sympathetic to your loneliness. And 50 year single Catholic men are probably just as statistically interested in marriage as 50 year old Protestant men.

I agree that other religions have a more vibrant community in comparison to most Catholic parishes. I am not sure why that is; maybe this is part of the devil’s work to draw Catholics out of the church. But again, it is temporal. I just moved from a beautiful, vibrant city parish to a rural area where the best parish within a reasonable driving distance can offer a reverent Mass but not much more than that. It’s been a hard adjustment, but I keep reminding myself that the “extra stuff” is not the faith. But it’s still hard; I understand where you’re coming from. Focus on your new faith and you’ll find that a combination of doors opening, and interior “letting go” will bring you to a peaceful state.

“I’ve never even been to a Catholic wedding,”

I’ve been Catholic for 15 years, and the only one I’ve been to is my own.

“The parish I go to is connected to a school, and everyone seems to ignore my existence. Every time I’ve volunteered for anything, I’ve been ignored.”

It may seem a little weird for you to be volunteering if you don’t have kids at the school. Not that it is weird, but it may just be very unusual.

I believe it is often the case (not just in Catholic parishes) that singles feel left out.

“I broke my ankles about 7 months ago, and when I e-mailed people from the church about it, nobody responded or asked me if I needed anything.”

That’s sad. That said, I think phone calls would be more effective.

“It was the Methodist church who came over and built it for her.”

I believe that that’s the sort of thing that the Knights of Columbus do.

“I’m so lonely going to Mass here. Nobody will greet me or sit by me. It’s like I’m invisible! If I try to talk to the priest about it, I get a lecture about how “The Catholic church is not a social club!””

I think I’d want to talk to him about all those songs about being the body of Christ and where there is love there God is too. Try another parish and another priest.

I think there is a lot of regional variation, as well as a lot of differences in how things work for singles versus marrieds with children. I’ve found our adopted medium-sized town in Texas a much more congenial place to be Catholic with a family than DC was, whereas you may find the reverse to be true. I’ve also noticed that while the normal US Catholic parish is often a room full of strangers, the ethnic Catholic parishes really buzz. (There’s been research done showing that diversity reduces the amount of socializing and social capital, and Catholic churches are normally super diverse. The social-ness of many Protestant organizations often comes at the price of homogeneity.)

I think that the major issue may be that Protestant Evangelical churches are often oriented toward horizontal charity (support for fellow church members), whereas Catholic churches are oriented toward vertical charity (support for the unfortunate in general). There are dozens of Catholic organizations out there doing good works, so the Catholic parish may not think of it as their parochial job to take care of parishioners materially. If you give them a good poke, they may wake up and realize, hey, so-and-so at Catholic charities or St. Vincent de Paul could help!

I’m sorry you don’t have more support.

Oh, and about the skittish Catholic single men–these guys have roamed free for the past half century. If they wanted to be married, they’d be married already. (Apologies to the single guys on the forum who DO want to be married–this is not you.)

Goldberry,

I think you’ll do better with volunteer work and Catholic organizations outside of the parish environment. The term “parochial” exists for a reason.

There are several overlapping issues, some of which you’ve already mentioned.

The first issue is that the nature of a Catholic parish is fundamentally different from a Protestant community. The primary purpose of a parish is to provide for the sacrificial needs of its parishioners.

A Catholic parish may have thousands of parishioners. Unlike a small protestant church, which attracts people based on common interests, such as service or worship styles, the Catholic parish serves everyone in the area regardless of interests. Making friends among Catholics requires shared interests beyond religion.

The vast majority of the parish go to mass and then go home, and rarely ever step near the building at other times during the week. Their social lives are simply centered elsewhere, and the Church doesn’t ask them to change this. A protestant church, however, is much more community and service oriented, since they do not have sacramental obligations as Catholics do.

Within the parish, their is probably a core group of 20 people that run the majority of events and groups. Catholics are not immune to cliquishness and other pettiness, so unfortunately this core group may simply be toxic. If this is the case “parish shopping” is an acceptable alternative if practical.

A third issue may be your approach. I once had a student in a classroom I was covering, where she wanted to be paired with another student for a project, but kept rejecting the students I paired her with. She whined and whined about not having a partner, saying she had to have a partner to do the work or she’d get in trouble (even though I gave her permission to work alone :rolleyes:). At the the end of the period, the assignment was just not done…

From the details you’ve provided, I can’t tell how effectively you’ve reached out. If you’re just emailing people you don’t know in person, they may not recognize you. Your email may even end up in the spam filter simply because they don’t have your email on file :(. You’ll have to reach out to people in person at events that interest you, and see if you click.

As your priest perhaps said to bluntly, the Catholic Church is not set up to meet all your social needs. Various organizations in the parish may be a start, but it is perfectly acceptable to socialize away from the parish. The majority of people you know are Protestant, and that is fine. Hang out with them. Perhaps find religiously neutral things such as movies or tennis to avoid being tempted back into Protestantism.

Finally, the same advice applies for dating. Catholicism is the universal faith, meant for all types of individuals. The men you mentioned are clearly looking for other attributes in addition to your shared faith. Let them go! While not ideal, you could consider looking for supportive spouses from other Christian denominations. You can’t expect them to convert, but if they respect your faith and obligations, the two of you could make it work.

What is important to remember is to find people who support your faith. Your family is unfortunately not quite up to the task, and actively undermining you. Stand up for yourself here! Find a balance of people, whether fellow Catholics, Protestant friends, future spouse, etc, who help you feel connected to God and each other, and will support you in your faith (even if they are not part of it).

pray novena to St.Raphael who is the patron saint of friendships,relationships etc…

On a related note, I often find myself hanging out with Mormon 20-30 year olds on a strictly social (never religious) basis, because our external values don’t clash as much with other my other friends who are mostly not religious.

This is exactly what Pope Francis is going to change in the Catholic Church. Most Catholics do not live their faith in the US. They go to Mass and they are done being Catholic until next Sunday. What ALL parishes in the USA need to do is help their parishioners rediscover the value of the Catholic community outside the Mass. We all need to live our faith daily, and take some steps back from the secular world to allow it to happen. People should not have to ask if you are Catholic. They should be able to tell from how you live your faith outwardly. Like I’ve said in other posts…Most American Catholics are so poorly catechized that they don’t even know how to live their faith.

I tend to agree with the others who say go ‘shopping’ for another parish.

I am fortunate to live in a large city, so there are a lot of parishes to choose from. Even though I have a “home” parish, I still check out the other parishes (on the internet) to see if there are activities going on that I might enjoy. My parish is (relatively) small and they don’t have a lot of “activities” for people who aren’t “over 55” or “under 18.” They do the basics and that’s about it. I know that as my kid goes through Catholic ed, I’ll meet more of the parents, but that’s more long-term and doesn’t always fit my immediate need for connection.

They occasionally have speakers and stuff that try to reach my age group, but mostly, they target the unemployed or some other group I’m not in.

I, too, can empathize.

I know exactly what you mean. It seems sometimes that someone single in their middle to upper years but not senior citizen is somewhat of a pariah in the parish, especially if the single person is divorced. I have volunteered for many things in the parishes I have attended, yet my social life doesn’t much come from the parish. So I socialize with folks that I have attended community college “fun” classes with.
If you still have friends at the Protestant church, you can still socialize with them. Most of my friends are not Catholic.

I am sorry that you feel so alone but I am happy that you know the answer is not to leave the Catholic Church. You would be leaving Jesus in the Eucharist and the protestant church could never give you Him. Plan to find another friendlier church and one that is quite active in all types of ministry. There is a great fit for you but you will have to ask questions, do some research and you may need to travel a few more miles. I attend a church 30 mins away from my home for the same reasons and it is a wonderful church and worth the drive.

[quote=Goldberry;10977371
]

Some practical suggestions:

  • join pilgrimage tours;
  • find out about prayer groups or any other lay groups in your parish;
  • attend lectures, seminars, Bible and Catechism study groups.
    Participating in these activities you might get to know people having same interests.
    [/quote]

Thanks, everybody, for your kind and thoughtful replies!

I live in an area where there aren’t many Catholic churches. There’s only one in the town I live in. I’d probably have to drive at least an hour to attend another one. I might do that in the future when I actually have a job again (I’m still recovering from my accident)

There’s not a Catholic culture here (if you understand what I mean) you wouldn’t know people were Catholic if you didn’t see them in church. They never wear Catholic medals or jewelry, for example. Once in a while someone will bring a Bible to church, and it’s usually a Protestant one. It’s a very anti-Catholic area here in the south, and I think that the Catholics here remain low key if not anonymous!

They tried starting a Catholic Bible study here, and I was the only one who showed up! :frowning:

I tried taking my niece and nephew to VBS at the Catholic church here. My nephew is in a wheelchair, and I’ve been trying to get him interested in church. Nobody would approach us or speak to us at VBS. My nephew cried and wanted me to take him home because nobody would speak to him. It was just sad.

I hang out with Protestant friends, and once in awhile I’ll go to their churches for special occasions, But I can’t imagine myself ever being Protestant again. I feel like I’ve outgrown it. It just doesn’t have any appeal to me anymore. I think that Christ in the Eucharist is a major factor. And I’ve gotten quite fond of Mary! :smiley:

“They tried starting a Catholic Bible study here, and I was the only one who showed up”

Having a critical mass of people is really important. I remember when we lived in MD (it was St. Martin’s in Gaithersburg), one of the priests there said that no matter what you advertised at the parish, 25 people would show up.

“I tried taking my niece and nephew to VBS at the Catholic church here. My nephew is in a wheelchair, and I’ve been trying to get him interested in church. Nobody would approach us or speak to us at VBS. My nephew cried and wanted me to take him home because nobody would speak to him. It was just sad.”

That is really sad. That seems worthy of a meeting with the VBS head and the pastor. However, that said, it probably would have been a good idea to meet with them in advance so that the teachers (who are probably not professionals and almost certainly not trained to deal with special needs) would be thinking ahead of time about how to include your nephew. (I have a special needs daughter and we do a meeting with the principal, a psychologist and the 7 or so teachers that work with her before the beginning of the school year.)

Correction–we do a meeting about one month into the school year.

:frowning:

One summer when I was about 12, I had been learning the basics of sign language in the school the previous year. My mom, who ran a cub scout camp, learned we would have a deaf scout at camp that year, and asked me to help him get around in advance. We both had a great time.

I second the notion that some pre-planning with the VBS coordinator might help dramatically (if you could convince your nephew and his parents to try again).

Unfortunately, I kind of did that. I had to take VIRTUS training before they’d let me take the kids to VBS. I talked with the religious director about my nephew, and she was the one who encouraged me to take him. She assured me that they would be welcoming. At VBS people ignored both of us. Nobody greeted us or acknowledged our presence.

It’s just a weird, anti-social place. People are very uncomfortable speaking to anyone that they haven’t known since Kindergarten.

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