Finding love online: A Catholic Valentine's Day story
GASTONIA — Some people might hesitate in using an online dating service to find a mate, but it can work.
Case in point: St. Ann parishioners Aaron and Mary Condon, who just celebrated their first wedding anniversary last month. The couple owes their relationship to Catholicmatch.com, an online dating website that has served more than half a million Catholics worldwide over the past decade.
Mary Condon, 30, wants to share her story in hopes of inspiring other people to put aside their apprehensions when they see the ad on the back of their parish bulletins for a faith-based online dating site.
"There's been a stigma about online dating for so long, that people are hesitant to do it – and rightfully so because there are some crazy people out there," Mary says. "You can find people of the same faith, who are out there to find someone who God wants you to be their match."
She turned to Catholicmatch.com after giving up dating for Lent three years ago. After a bad breakup, she decided to concentrate on finding out what God wanted for her life, and she contemplated both marriage and a religious vocation.
Pictured: Mary and Aaron Condon were married Jan. 1, 2011 at St. Pius X Church in Greensboro. The couple met through Catholicmatch.com. Mary had tried Match.com first but didn’t find a man who shared the same beliefs. (Photo by Maggie Phillips, of Bliss Photography)
She says she decided to place her profile on Catholicmatch.com because she had found it difficult to find someone who was "practicing his faith and would live his life as a Roman Catholic first and foremost." There she found an interesting profile: Aaron's.
"Aaron was a man of few words on his profile. When you look at a picture, you can tell if you are attracted to them. He was wearing a tuxedo in the picture, so of course he looked really handsome," Mary recalls.
She messaged him, but he didn't reply right away.
"My mom encouraged me to pray a novena to St. Ann – the same one she prayed before she met my dad. And six days into the novena, I received a message from Aaron."
Turns out, he was out of the country with his family, Mary recalls, but on the ninth day of the novena, Mary and Aaron set a date to meet.
At the time, Mary lived in Greensboro and attended St. Pius X Church where her father, William Shaw, serves as a permanent deacon.
Aaron, 35, asked to join Mary for Mass at St. Ann Church the next time she was in Charlotte. The couple met each other in the parking lot of the church, then they went to the same restaurant where Aaron's parents first met.
The couple started dating soon afterwards, and then quickly got acquainted with each other's families.
"I knew right away Aaron was the man I was going to marry," Mary says. About a year after meeting, they were engaged. The couple married in Mary's home parish in Greensboro on New Year's Day 2011.
The hardest part for the newlyweds at first was adjusting to their new life together and settling into a home in Gastonia, Mary says. She'd never lived more than a few minutes from her family in Greensboro.
"It took an adjustment. Father Benjamin Roberts, my spiritual director, told me to put Aaron first, as he is my family and we make our home. Now, I couldn't imagine life different."
St. Ann parishioners have welcomed them and aided in making their new "home," she adds.
"What really holds us together when Aaron and I have our arguments, as every married couple does, is that we know we have our sacrament and the Eucharist, and it makes all the difference in the world."
— Kimberly Bender, online reporter