Older Catholics find romance and companionship online

Jeanne Bullock laughed when she saw her future husband’s photo on CatholicMatch.com

“Ray was wearing a white wig and was pretending to be J.S. Bach conducting an orchestra,” she said. “I thought, ‘This man isn’t afraid to play,’ so I looked at his profile. I could tell that he loved the Lord, too, and that was important.” 

They met, they married last fall and now live in Barrington, R.I. 

Their ages — he’s 67 and she’s 65 — disprove the notion that falling in love — and using the computer to do so — is only for the young. 

Digital meeting place 

“When I started CatholicMatch.com, it never dawned on me to think about older people,” co-founder Brian Barcaro told Our Sunday Visitor. “That was 11 years ago, and very few people in their 60s and 70s were using the Internet, let alone a dating site. Times have changed, and now the Internet is a significant [meeting place] for seniors.” 

Barcaro and a friend founded the service, based near Pittsburgh, Pa., with a third partner soon joining them. 

“I was in law school, and my roommate and I were kind of Web junkies,” he said. “We saw that the dating sites weren’t all that great for Catholics, so we thought we’d give it a shot and build a better mousetrap.” 

CatholicMatch.com has about 200,000 members — 10 percent are older than 60, and nearly 500 are in their 80s. They are widowed, late divorcees or never married, and 65 percent are female. Chicago and Los Angeles head the top 10 cities, but no matter where members are, they’re all looking for connections, even if it’s just on the site’s 41 public blogs. 

Clicking quickly 

Many are looking for more. 

Ray Bullock has four children and one grandchild, and works in the insurance business. His first wife died in February 2010, and he told OSV, “Six months later, I knew that I would really be happier if I was married.” 

He saw an ad for CatholicMatch.com in a church bulletin. “I couldn’t go meet 50 different women in 50 different places,” he said. “So, I thought I’d have some fun.” 

Jeanne Bullock lost her husband in 2002, and in 2004 she moved from Washington state to Maryland to help her daughter through a difficult pregnancy. She ended up staying, and with nine children and 24 grandchildren, she was too busy for dating. 

She joined CatholicMatch.com in April 2010, but nothing clicked. Then in August, she saw Ray’s profile and sent him a message. 

They met on Labor Day when he drove to Maryland. They went dining and dancing, and he met her family. When they held hands at Mass, something great happened, they said, and before he left, they both said, “I love you.” 

“Jeanne and I came to the same conclusion,” Ray Bullock said. “If you haven’t figured out who you are by the time you’re in your 60s, you probably never will. You have to be totally honest with who you are and settle for nothing less than that, and the person you want to be with. And the most important quality about our relationship is our relationship with Jesus Christ.” 

They were married Nov. 20. 

Christina Ries of Minneapolis, spokeswoman for CatholicMatch.com, isn’t surprised that the Bullocks and other couples click so quickly. That’s because of the questions that prospective members answer, she said. 

“They are on the same page when they get started. The seniors, as well as any other age group, come to the site with really sincere and good intentions, and they feel safe and comfortable. They share their faith and life experiences and they go right to the heart of the matter. They hit the ground running.” 

Going where God leads 

Anthony Buono of Front Royal, Va., founded AveMariaSingles.com 13 years ago. There are 12,000 members, and 5,000 active users on the site at any time. More than 1,200 are older than 50, and some are in their 80s. About 75 percent of the reported marriages are between people who lived distances apart. 

“I think people get locked into wanting to meet someone locally, and if you could do that, you wouldn’t need a website like ours,” Buono told OSV. “So, I always encourage people to be open to whatever person God leads them to.” 

Widower Joel Berry, 57, lived in Montana when he met Donna, 56, a divorcee, from Oklahoma. He had been a rancher, and she was a late-life college student who had settled into being a grandmother to her nine grandchildren. Then she saw Buono on EWTN and signed up in April 2008. 

He joined in November 2009 because, he said, “I wanted to meet a woman who was really Catholic and believed in our Church.” 

Three months later, he stopped at Donna’s profile when he was scrolling through listings and left her a message. 

“I thought that I didn’t have to worry about meeting him because I wasn’t going to Montana,” said Donna Berry. “But something connected. Our fingers were flying [on the keyboards] for the next two nights, then we talked on the phone. We shared a lot of things about our lives, and we shared our devotions to our Catholic faith.” 

He went to Oklahoma to meet her and her family and on a later visit, he proposed to her on bent knee in front of her daughters. They wed Oct. 2 and now live between both states. 

Dan and Donna Schoo of Dekalb, Ill., 59 and 57, respectively, met on AveMariaSingles.com and got married in 2002. They remained married members who answer questions. 

“A lot of people ask, ‘What do you think are my chances?’” he said. “I always encourage people, even though they’re older, to join and start looking.” 

Quest for companionship 

David Nevarez, founder of CatholicSingles.com, based in California, told OSV that seniors aren’t looking for anything different than other members. 

“However, they are more focused on companionship as a priority,” he said. 

Baby boomers and older seniors make up “a huge segment of the population,” he added, and their presence is increasing on online dating services. “They are more comfortable and savvy using the Web,” he said. 

Leon, who asked that his last name not be used, of Houston, Texas, was divorced 19 years ago, applied for an annulment last year, and won’t date until it’s final. 

“I strictly follow what the Church teaches,” he said. 

The Catholic singles sites also recommend friendships only for divorcees without annulments. Meanwhile, Leon, 64, is making friends on CatholicMatch.com, and wants to find a woman who loves romance and who loves the Lord. 

“The Lord has blessed me well, and I have a nice circle of friends,” he said. “But someday I would like to enter into a sacramental marriage.” 

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

Online Dating Details (sidebar)

Statistics from CatholicMatch.com over-60 members: 

42% - widowed 

8% - never married 

50% -divorced (10 percent annulled) 

43.1% - willing to travel 

26.5% - willing to meet within driving distance 

11.6% - open to traveling anywhere 

10.1% - no travel 

41% - prefer current location 

28% - willing to live anywhere 

12.5% - can’t relocate 

Statistics from AveMariaSingles.com: 

290 men, 568 women in their 50s 

70 men, 218 women in their 60s 

19 men, 56 women in their 70s 

5 men, 4 women in their 80s

Additional articles from our Senior Living Special Section:

Social media tools keep seniors connected

Catholic radio, TV draw large senior audience

Charities, programs focus on senior needs