St. Birgitta Parish’s friendship group began when a parishioner noticed something missing.

She knew there were Catholic activity groups for seniors, Catholic groups for young adults, Catholic lay groups connected with religious orders like the Benedictine Oblates, and Catholic groups, like the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Laudato Si’, Knights of Columbus or Catholic Daughters, connected with good works.

But there didn’t seem to be a group for single Catholics who were neither seniors nor young adults, a group that would nourish their intellectual curiosity about their faith in a community of other Catholics who were at the same stage of life.

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities for fellowship for that age group, between the ages of 40 and 60,” said Father Joshua Clifton, pastor of St. Birgitta, which is in outer Northwest Portland.

The parishioner, Michaelle (who prefers her last name not be used), had in mind a social group for people who were in a similar place in their lives.

Father Clifton asked her to look into how to spread the word.

"There's nothing better than making new friends who share the Catholic faith and are at a similar place in life,” said Michaelle, who is now cofounder and coleader of the Catholic Friendship Group. “We started this group so that people could make new friends and enhance some of our intellectual curiosity. Something fun. A place to learn. A chance to build relationships. And most of all, to be together with people who love the Lord."

Nine Catholics met Friday, July 22, and brainstormed about what they wanted from the group, agreeing on a time for adoration of the Eucharist, a brief presentation, a discussion, and then fellowship with refreshments.

“A lot of people had said they’d wanted a group like this for some time,” said Father Clifton. “They were looking for something more intellectual.”

Although the group doesn’t expect to talk about being single, Father Clifton did think it was appropriate to discuss that in his first talk to the group.

“In the widest sense, what did God make us for, in his image?” he asked.

“To get to salvation,” he answered. “We’re called to holiness.”

Father Clifton pointed out that everyone is, at some point in their lives, single. It can be thought of as a vocation, whether temporary or permanent, by chance or by choice, with its own challenges and gifts.

“Single people are able to live out charity in a particularly generous way,” Father Clifton said.

About single life

A page at the Archdiocese of Portland’s website (archdpdxvocations.org/undecided-is-not-a-vocation/) suggests that there is debate over whether single life can be considered a vocation. It adds, however, “the Church recognizes that some people are called to lifelong holiness as single men and women: “Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion.” (CCC #1658)

“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a single man who dedicated his life to God’s work by helping the poor, promoting knowledge of the Faith, and advancing the acceptance of Catholic social principles in politics.”

Patron saints of singles

A web search for “patron saint of singles” is an illustration of society’s lack of understanding that the chaste single life can be fulfilling and joyful. Some of the saints that come up are “for finding a wife” and “for finding love.”

As the Archdiocese of Portland’s Vocations Office suggests, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is a good choice for prayers on being single. He was a joyful, hard-working man who made time for friends, adventure and good works.

St. Raphael the Archangel is a patron saint of single people, St. Christopher is the patron saint of bachelors and St. Helen is a patron saint of divorced people. St. Paula, widowed at 32, is the patron saint of widows and St. Catherine of Alexandria the patron saint of unmarried women.

The Catholic Friendship Group includes both divorced and never-married people.

Father Clifton fielded a number of inquiries about the group from people over 60, but respectfully told them no. Perhaps, he added, a social group for those 55 and older could be launched sometime in the future.