.- Denver’s downtown Thai Basil restaurant was abuzz the night before St. Valentine’s Day as a venue for a speed dating event where 51 Catholics said they didn’t just seek love, but dating opportunities in which faith is priority.
Valentine Catholic Speed Dating, the largest Catholic speed dating event said to have been hosted in Denver, was organized Feb. 13 by the Last Supper Club.
The organization is an after church dinner club started and run by volunteers who attend Mass regularly at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
The event, which took place at Thai Basil’s 1422 E. 18th Ave. location, initiated at least 34 coffee, dinner, dancing and also Estes Park day-trip dates since. It was the first Catholic Speed Dating event to take place in Denver since June 2006.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people that showed and how many people truly put themselves out there,” said Nathan Webb, 36, a Denver marketing professional. “I’m looking forward to a coffee date this Wednesday night.”
Webb said he kept the conversation light and easy with each new “date” and just allowed it to go where it would.“I know many happily married couples who were not thunderstruck with each other upon sight, but over time it happened,” he said. “Thus it’s important to keep an open mind.”
Asked if he would do it again, Webb affirmed he would.
“But,” he added, “I’m hoping to be in a relationship by the next one.”
At least 20 prospective speed daters were at the restaurant an hour before the event.
Much like musical chairs, at the ring of a dinner bell participants changed “dates” every four minutes. Men were asked to move one seat over to ask questions (suggested ones were provided from which they could choose) to get to know the next woman seated across from them. Father Michael O’Loughlin of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church in Denver helped by recommending a method in which to ask faith questions in a short time period as one of the questionnaire options.
After each “date,” with “scorecards” in hand, participants marked next to categories like “consider date,” “maybe date” and “friends” and were asked to write stars next to their choices. Speed daters met between 12 and 17 prospective “dates.”
Jenn Voelker, 33, a technical writer who lives in Brighton, said that as a result of the event, she has had one coffee date and has others planned.
“I had a wonderful time and it was so nice to be able to talk about my faith,” Voelker said. “It was normal to talk about faith. I’ve rarely had that experience in my dating life. My dating priorities changed to Catholic and conservative values after my last serious relationship. Now I know I’m on the right path.
“I’ve learned over the years that a shared, active, real Catholic faith is the most important factor in my search for a husband,” she said. “I’ve dated many men who claimed to be Catholic or Christian. But as soon as I brought up attending Mass on a regular basis together, living a pure, chaste courtship, or raising a Catholic family, their tunes changed abruptly. I found it refreshing to meet men committed to their faith. A man of faith has a beautiful soul.”
After the event, organizers e-mailed participants their matches and results showing others’ interest in them as well as e-mail addresses of those who named them. On St. Valentine’s Day, everyone who participated received Catholic Singles speaker Dave Sloan’s “License to Date” test and answer key from the website www.godofdesire.com. Several speed daters said it was a good resource for immediate questions to Catholic dating.
Most of the speed daters were in their 20s or 30s, several were in their 40s and some were in their 50s.
“I enjoyed having the chance to meet some of the ladies I have seen at the Catholic young adult events, yet have never talked with,” said Kelly Eurek, 24, an engineer who resides in Golden. “Sometimes we get comfortable in our circle of friends and do not want to meet new ones. I was surprised how excited everyone was to meet new people.”
Several of the Catholic speed daters were new to the type of event, including Michelle Zapapas, 26, a pharmacist from Centennial.
“I was surprised at how relaxed I felt through the entire process,” Zapapas said. “That may have been the result of frantic prayer beforehand because I don’t consider myself to be outgoing, and I don’t consider myself to excel at first impressions. But I think going into the process with no expectations other than to stretch my comfort zone and support a friend who was also nervous about participating definitely helped keep the stress level low. I liked that at the end of the night, I could walk away with nothing and still feel like I succeeded in trying something new. The fact that I ended up meeting some great guys that I wouldn’t ordinarily have encountered was a bonus.”
Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.