MaryAnn Perevich first logged onto www.CatholicSingles.com six or seven years ago. Single and looking to find someone who shared her Catholic beliefs, Perevich said she usually received e-mails through the Web site from three or four men each month.
"If people are serious about their faith it’s a great way to meet people," said Perevich, a member of St. Jude’s Parish in Gates.
Perevich, 43, is one of a growing number of Catholics who are looking to the Internet to help them find a significant other. In the past decade, dozens of dating sites have sprung up on the Internet, and a handful of them cater specifically to Catholics. The most popular among these sites — CatholicMatch.com, CatholicSingles.com and Ave Maria Singles — have drawn thousands of members from across the nation.
Most of these sites allow their members to search a database by gender, age and location. The initial search is often free, but most sites require that a fee be paid before allowing members to communicate with each other.
Many sites often include unique features. Ave Maria Singles, for example, features an "Ask the Father" section, where members can e-mail a priest with questions about faith and morals. CatholicSingles.com includes a section with Catholic news, and CatholicMatch.com allows members to search for potential matches by diocese.
A search on CatholicMatch.com showed 114 registered members from the Diocese of Rochester. There are 316 people from the New England area registered with Ave Maria Singles, and 117 people from communities within the Diocese of Rochester are signed up at CatholicSingles.com, which has nearly 3,000 members from New York. Members living within the Rochester Diocese range in age from 19 to senior citizens.
Perevich canceled her membership at CatholicSingles.com six months ago because many of the men she met through the site did not live in the Rochester area. Meeting them was often futile, Perevich said, because she would never consider moving away from Rochester, where her family and work obligations are.
Perevich is not alone, said Buffalo resident Michele Stanek, 21.
"You just get so disheartened because there’s no one from your area," Stanek said. "I know so many single Catholics who have given up hope, because it’s really important to find someone who shares your beliefs and goals so you can build that Christ-centered marriage."
Stanek hopes her new Web site, WNYCatholicConnect.com, will help Catholics in western New York find just that type of partner. Stanek said the site, which she launched in February, is "revolutionary" because it is designed for people within a certain geographic area.
The site already has 60 members, most of whom reside within the boundaries of the Rochester and Buffalo dioceses. Those who have a paid membership can send e-mails and instant messages to other members and participate in live chats. The site also includes several "portals," where members can learn about the Eucharist, celibacy, pro-life issues and the concept of courtship.
Kurt Griffen, 29, joined the site shortly after it launched because he liked its local focus, which he said greatly enhanced the chances of members actually meeting each other.
"It might be a smaller network of people, but it has a larger opportunity for real-life contact," said Griffen, who belongs to St. Jude’s Parish in Gates. Griffen, who also belongs to one of the larger Catholic dating sites, said the sites are a good way to meet other Catholics.
"As they say, ‘there’s more fish in the sea,’ and if I’m going to go fishing, I want to go where the good fish are," Griffen said. "Not everyone on a Roman Catholic dating site is going to be a saint, but you have a much greater chance of finding a decent, practicing Catholic on a Catholic dating site than on just any dating site."
Adam Ramey, 21, joined WNYCatholicConnect.com after moving to Rochester several months ago because he thought it would be a good way to connect with area Catholics.
"As someone who returned to the church a few years ago and who has become more and more aware of the need for a faithful mate in life, this sort of service is ideal in that, right off the bat, you have some general idea where people stand," said Ramey, who belongs to St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Rochester. "You find others who are committed to faith and looking for more than the immoral, un-Catholic dating scene has to offer."
Privacy and safety are always concerns when dating Web sites are involved, but these concerns can be minimized if people use common sense and take their time getting to know others on the site, Griffen said.
All potential members are screened, and each member’s personal information is kept confidential at WNYCatholicConnect.com, Stanek said. Anyone who posts obscene or vulgar content will have his or her membership revoked, she added.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In October 2011 Stanek notified the Catholic Courier that WNYCatholicConnect.com is no longer an active site.