Single life isn’t meant to be some ‘waiting period’ to fulfill God’s mission, organizer says of conference, Aug. 25-27 in Plymouth
PLYMOUTH — Married, religious, clergy or single, everyone has a vocational call to holiness.
The National Catholic Singles Conference, set for Aug. 25-27 at St. John’s Resort in Plymouth, seeks to help single Catholics live out that call to holiness with a weekend of faith, fellowship and formation in the vision of St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”
The conference is designed to encourage single Catholics to embrace God’s mission for them in their current state of life, as opposed to waiting around for marriage or holy orders, said Anastasia Northrop, founder and director of the National Catholic Singles Conference.
Those interested in attending the conference can register at this link. Registration costs $497, and includes entrance to talks, music, liturgies and exhibits throughout the conference. Registration ends Aug. 25 and does not include hotel accommodations.
Detroit Catholic readers can get a discount with the promo code “DC2023.”
“As a single person, we all have that baptismal vocation to love and holiness,” Northrop told Detroit Catholic. “We all have that, we’re just in different states in life, with different ways to live out that vocation to love. With single people, we’re living that now. You can’t value your life (based on) if you are in a consecrated or vowed state or not, if you are married or not. Because God created us for a mission in life that no one else can do.”
The conference dates back to 2005, when Northrop, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., was speaking with friends about hosting a conference for singles based on St. John Paul II’s "Theology of the Body," delving into how single Catholics can be formed to live out their calling in life.
“We all know what it means to be male and female, to have good relationships that will help our dating and relations that help us in pursuing religious vocations,” Northrop said. “But then we wanted to add faith formation with that, with Mass, adoration, confession and time for prayer. So beyond making it a conference, we wanted this to be a retreat to go along with the fellowship, community aspect.”
The conference is for singles from their 20s to their 60s, drawing people from all over the country — and the world — for an extended weekend in Michigan. The focus of the conference isn’t to find a future spouse, although Northrop said that has happened.
Rather, the conference is about growing in one’s current state of life, preparing for whatever God has in plan for them.
“It’s about coming together to be strengthened and learning about their faith and hearing the talks on the basis of 'Theology of the Body,' male-female relationships,” Northrop said. “Some have to do with your own personal growth and healing. Some with how you live your single life fruitfully in the present moment. Even if we want to be married or are discerning a vocation, we need to be living our life to the fullest now, to meet others in fellowship and be strengthened and encouraged in living their life as a single person.”
For many parishes and dioceses, ministry to single people is synonymous with young adult ministry. But Northrop said as more and more people are putting off marriage or consecrated life into their 30s — or even 40s — the church needs to rethink ministry for single people.
“It used to be when everyone would get married young, you wouldn’t need anything for single people past college age or young adult,” Northrop said. “Now there are more single people of all ages. A Pew Research study said 25% of those reaching age 40 have never been married. (That's the age when) they begin to age out of young adult ministry.
“What can we do to pay attention to those in this particular state in life?” Northrop added. “It’s a transitional state, a long-term transitional state for many. So what can we offer in terms of formation, the social aspect, the service projects, activities people can do together?”
This year’s event at St. John’s Resort will feature speakers such as Steve Pokorny of Freedom Coaching, J.P De Gance, author of the book “Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America,” and Pete Burak of Renewal Ministries, speaking about the various aspects of single life as a Catholic.
The conference will also feature a tour of historic Detroit churches, the Solanus Casey Center, the Henry Ford Museum, a Detroit Tigers game, Kensington Metropark, Greenfield Village, and even a trip out to western Michigan.
“People who’ve attended previous conferences have remained close friends for many years and have started groups studying the content presented at conferences,” Northrop said. “There is one woman who started a texting group with people from all over the country she met at the conference, and they have formed a study group on 'Theology of the Body' from this conference. That’s just one story of people being encouraged to start something, and building community that is needed in today’s world.”
That sense of community is particularly important for single Catholics, Northrop said, because there is no built-in community for single people who are older.
The National Catholic Singles Conference is about single Catholics building that sense of community. And while the goal of the conference isn’t to find a spouse, it is designed to better form Catholics to find a spouse, to be ready for the next step in life, no matter what it might be.
“There was a couple where the husband went to 10 conferences before marrying his wife, and he said 'Theology of the Body' made him into the man (he was supposed to be) to marry his wife,” Northrop said. “'Theology of the Body' prepared him to be married. Other people have said they have encountered Christ in a deeper way (at the conference), people who come who have been more single than they are Catholic, and they come away knowing Christ in a deeper way. People who have attended past conferences have become more active in their faith.”
Beyond the social aspect of the conference, including a night of music and dancing on Saturday night, visits throughout Metro Detroit during the weekend, and the spiritual reflections offered by speakers, Northrop said the biggest benefit is that it helps single Catholics become more comfortable with their current state in life.
Being single isn’t some “holding pattern” of fulfilling God’s plan for their life, Northrop added.
“Whether we enter into a vowed state or not, our life has so much value,” Northrop said. “We need to focus on living that vocation to holiness and that vocation to love; that is how you are going to find fulfillment. If you want to get married, you can’t just sit around your house on your computer playing video games, eating popcorn and vegging out all day — you have to make an effort if you are going to meet somebody to marry.
“At the same time, we shouldn’t spend our whole life in some waiting period,” Northrop continued. “We can’t be thinking our lives don’t start until we get married. The point is to be living for the now, and living the life God wants for us now. Then, whether single or married, we’ll be much more fulfilled.”
National Catholic Singles Conference
For more information or to register for the National Catholic Singles Conference, which will take place Aug. 25-27 at St. John's Resort in Plymouth, visit www.nationalcatholicsingles.com/registration. Use promo code "DC2023" for a special discount for Detroit Catholic readers.