There are no algorithms in this matchmaking effort. Instead, a curated and personalised approach to finding love is used
Together at Last, a matchmaking service founded in early 2020 by Philomena, a Catholic mother in Sydney with a knack for helping her friends find love, is on a mission to restore human connections in an age where the tyranny of the abstract reigns supreme.
There are no algorithms. Instead, a curated and personalised approach to finding love is used. “We provide an individualised service, unlike online dating which uses algorithms and can be quite impersonal,” Philomena told The Catholic Weekly.
We provide an individualised service
“We talk to you, listen and really develop an understanding of what you are looking for.”
Catholics in the 21st Century – especially in post-industrial nations like Australia – are not immune to the increasing loneliness and alienation affecting modern life.
And in an all too often abstract or impersonal digital era, deceitful dating apps, and seemingly eternal social distancing the absence of human touch – physically and metaphorically – is felt more acutely than ever in the realm of love and relationships.
Single Catholics in large numbers can be left adrift in a sea of confusion with an ever-increasing rift between their values and those of their contemporaries. They can well feel as though they have few options when it comes to dating.
Frustrations about the lack of opportunities there are for single Catholics to meet
Meanwhile, the days of the archetypal large rambunctious but happy Catholic family are at an end – unless, that is, Philomena has a say in the matter. “I listen and make lots of notes,” she said.
“I factor in liturgical preferences and so have a wide variety of Catholics on the books from Charismatic, mainstream Novus Ordo, to Extraordinary Form Latin Mass goers.”
Inspiration for Together at Last was borne from increasing dismay among Philomena’s Catholic friends over the apparent lack of natural places to meet like-minded partners.
“I was sitting with some single friends of mine and they expressed their frustrations about the lack of opportunities there are for single Catholics to meet and hopefully date, especially after university age,” she said.
I sympathised with their frustrations and agreed that not enough has been done
“For many young Catholics, particularly post-university age, there are very limited social opportunities to gather and meet, particularly this year.
“I sympathised with their frustrations and agreed that not enough has been done to help Catholics to meet and hopefully marry.”
The techniques of matchmaking at Together at Last have been partly inspired by practices within the sections of the Jewish community and their intricate and successful tradition of matchmaking.
“I embarked on some research looking at how other religions run their matchmaking and noted that the Jewish communities are doing it in a modern way,” she said.
“I also saw there was no one else in the Australian Catholic scene doing this, so I thought I may as well try.”
Some [couples] are now regularly dating
Together at Last, however, is distinctly Catholic with Philomena’s experience with a Masters of Arts in Theological Studies from the University of Notre Dame Sydney and 12 years in Catholic Education.
“I am aware of the groups and issues within the Australian Catholic Church,” she said.
Among the services provided by Together at Last are personalised questionnaires, one-on-one matching, small group events complying with COVID-19 social distancing, Zoom matches for interstate introductions and monthly Zoom speed dating events.
Philomena reports she has had successes.
Sponsorship of this initiative would be greatly appreciated
“Some [couples] are now regularly dating. It’s early days but it is always exciting hearing these stories. I have joked with a few that if all goes well, I expect a wedding invitation!”
Philomena, who treats her work as a grassroots service to the Catholic community is hoping for sponsorship for her initiative as she juggles the commitments of Together At Last with being a mum. “I’m a mother with a toddler, so I mainly fit all this in during my ‘spare time’ late at night,” she said.
Philomena’s advice to all single Catholics – regardless of matchmaking or not – is to pray
“Many hundreds of hours have been spent trying to build up this ministry much to the sacrifice of my husband, child, wider family and friends so any sponsorship of this initiative would be greatly appreciated.”
Philomena’s advice to all single Catholics – regardless of matchmaking or not – is to pray and give love a chance. “Pray, pray, pray – but most importantly get out there and give it a go. It won’t happen unless you try,” she said.
“Sadly, single Catholics put so much pressure on themselves and each other they don’t enjoy the process.
Good news for sing Catholic men – Philomena is looking for them to join as there is an abundance of women on board with the service.
“There seems to be an abundance of women in this age range but not the men, please come out of hiding and give this a chance so I encourage everyone to tell these men about this initiative,” she said.
Single men, man up! Stop sitting on the side-lines, you’re perhaps missing your best years by not taking action
Single men, man up! Stop sitting on the side-lines, you’re perhaps missing your best years by not taking action. I have lots of people on the list who are ready to meet someone who is serious and looking for marriage.”
Long-term Together at Last is planning to run conference days with talks based on the vocation of marriage, social events for everyone to mingle afterwards, and even retreats.