A number of years ago when I was still a seminarian, some of us were invited to a reception. It was one of those receptions at which the host thought it a marvelous idea to have assigned seating so that you could not sit with people you knew, loved, and trusted, and be forced to get to know the host’s friends so that we could be one big happy family. I hate that.
As it turned out, there I was seated at a table with one other seminarian and three other couples. The couples were relatively recently married and, though they were close friends growing up, had not seen each other in a number of years. The entire night’s conversation evolved around such topics as how to keep you husband from tracking tar from the newly sealed driveway into the house and exactly how dilated each woman was at the birth of her first child. They were perfectly delightful people. But when desert was served, as soon as we had polished off the plate one or the other of us said, “Wow, look at my wrist! It’s getting late. Time for all good seminarians to go to bed.”
There was nothing wrong with the evening. The couples were polite and interesting. The reception was actually quite nice, but as you might imagine, the night was so focused on couples that there was just a lack of finding a place. We couldn’t even hang out with other seminarians. So we drifted out.
Parish life can be the same way. There are a lot of single people. Some are simply single people waiting to become a couple. Some may be discerning a priestly or religious life. Some are divorced or widowed. Some have discerned that the single life for Christ is for them. Sometimes it is chosen, sometimes it is not. And a parish, particularly if there is a strong school, can tend to focus on families. Even catechesis has moved in that direction at times stepping away from a classroom model to generations of faith in which families are catechized together.
It is possible that dinners, dances, homilies, programs, and clubs can tend to be couples or family oriented. This is great because the family needs support, but it can’t be at the expense of this large population. And I’m not talking about grieving clubs, or Catholic singles, or divorced Catholic clubs that treat being single as a malady, but something to acknowledge, celebrate, and offer opportunities to these people who are often the backbone of the parish.
So there you go! Easy to point out the problem, not so easy to come up with the solution. If you’ve thoughts and ideas, I’d love to hear them.