A panel discussion “Catholic Dating: Why Is It So Hard?” will seek to address the concerns and hopes of young Catholics in their 20s-40s July 19 in Indianapolis.

The Catholic Project, an initiative of The Catholic University of America, will present the panel at the National Eucharistic Congress.

According to Stephen White, executive director of The Catholic Project, “Catholic dating is on the minds of a lot of people, Catholic marriage rates are in decline, and there is concern about vocations generally.”

White said Catholics face distinct challenges in dating because of the Church’s sacramental view of marriage.

“The vocation to family is where all the other vocations come from,” he said.

The panel, hosted by Sara Perla, The Catholic Project’s communications manager, and JD Flynn, editor of The Pillar, will include six young, single Catholics: Cody Etheridge, a marketing and communications specialist at CUA; Chika Anyanwu, author of My Encounter: How I Met Jesus in Prayer; Mari Pablo, a speaker and presenter for Ascension Press; Lillian Fallon, author of Theology of Style: Expressing the Unique and Unrepeatable You; John Mittel, creator of the energy drink Phocus, and Lucas Kaliszak, a CatholicMatch content creator. They will come together to share encouragement with attendees.

“The main thing we see with young adults is people are waiting a little bit longer to get married, and we want to get to the heart of the disconnect between Catholic men and women when it comes to dating,” Etheridge said.

According to a study from the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate, marriages among Catholics dropped 69% from 1969 and 2019.

Etheridge believes fewer young people are getting married because, in many cases, they prefer to prioritize their careers or tend to be reserved and don’t put themselves in social situations to meet people.

A Summer Dating Report from Eventbrite, a website where users can research and obtain tickets for events, records 69% of millennials would rather meet in person than through dating websites. The report also includes 1.5 million searches on Eventbrite’s website for in-person dating and singles events.

Husband and wife Ben-David and Lizzie Warner met at a young-adult event at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, Virginia.

“The best way to meet someone is to go to Catholic events,” Ben-David said. “But you should meet in the context of living out your life. Don’t just go to events to meet your spouse. Let life happen, live Catholic life and have a Catholic community, but don’t make finding a spouse the only reason.”

Ben-David said he has noticed many young Catholics place too much weight on first dates rather than getting to know people. He said Catholics should instead seek to casually date at the beginning of a relationship.

Lizzie said young Catholics often struggle to find partners when they expect perfection from their future spouse.

“Many women can be too influenced by the Hollywood experience and seeking that ‘spark’ and perfection,” Lizzie said.

The couple said young Catholics should seek to develop a sense of self-identity and a vision for their lives to know what they want in a spouse.

“If you don’t have a sense of who you are as a person, you’re going to be lost and not know what to look for,” Ben-David said.

The Catholic Project hopes the panel will be an encouraging and edifying experience for those attending, according to White.

As Etheridge said, “Our hope is for us panelists and Catholic University is to help everyone there gain some perspective on being single — and recognize that everyone has flaws and issues — but marriage is a good and holy thing to want.”

From the National Catholic Register