Mathieu Couture, a devout Acadian Catholic from Bathurst, New Brunswick, met Susan Penna, an Indonesian-born ethnic Chinese lukewarm Catholic who grew up in Australia, through a secular online dating site.
Their relationship is a Catholic online dating success story.
They talked by computer and phone for a few weeks before deciding to meet up for lunch at a restaurant in Calgary. To Mathieu’s delight, everything about meeting Susan in person matched up with the woman he had met online.
“She looked how I expected her to look. She acted how I expected her to act. I think that’s rare in online dating. You’ll hear about a lot of people being fake, but this person was being honest with me and she wasn’t trying to be someone she wasn’t,” said Mathieu.
Alternatively, Susan was initially put off by Mathieu who kept checking his watch. Mathieu explained that he was interested in Susan, but he just didn’t want to return to work late.
“I guess we didn’t hit it off right away,” said Mathieu. “Susan will tell you that she thought I was stuck up.”
One date would have been enough for Susan, but Mathieu kept pursuing her. When he suggested they go for a hike, Susan’s interest was renewed by the promise of fun and adventure.
“I guess in Matty’s case, first impressions aren’t everything. I’m happy I gave him a second chance to get to know him better,” said Susan.
Back in 2014 at age 29, Susan had decided to travel the world for a year. After a few months, her travels landed her in Calgary to visit her cousin, Lia. While in Calgary, Susan hoped to find a companion to show her around while she was passing through.
Meeting Mathieu changed her travel plans and in turn her life plans.
Susan extended her stay in Calgary from one month to six months before returning to Australia. The couple continued dating long distance for another year. Mathieu visited her in Australia and once again they met up in Japan, before Susan made the decision to move to Calgary.
After a year, the couple got engaged and 12 months later they exchanged vows in the Sacrament of Marriage at St. Joseph’s Parish in Calgary. Since then, God has blessed the couple with a toddler and the recent birth of their newborn baby.
When they first met, dating a Catholic was not a prerequisite for Susan, so she didn’t mention it in her online profile. On the other hand, faith in a prospective spouse was important to Mathieu, so he stated his religious beliefs upfront on his profile. And it was this detail that caught Susan’s attention.
“I don’t normally make the first move, but he was just one of those special ones that made me think, who is this guy, and I had to ask,” said Susan. She asked him where he went to church and a connection was instantly made.
During their courtship Mathieu began going to St. Joseph’s 5 pm Mass to hear Susan sing in the choir. The pair would go out after for a bite to eat.
They soon found out that Mathieu’s faith was firm, while Susan considered herself lukewarm. Growing up Susan practiced Chinese Buddhism for the first 10 years of her life, until someone introduced Catholicism to her family and one by one they all converted. While Susan said she’s always kept a prayer life, she did not have a strong sacramental life. But as her relationship with Mathieu matured, so did her faith. Now as a family, they go to Mass every Sunday.
Mathieu thanks his grandfather for bringing him to Mass as a child. In his early-20s Mathieu’s grandfather died. At his funeral Mass in a state of grief, Mathieu experienced a profound experience of the Holy Spirit reassuring him that everything would be okay. That was the beginning of Mathieu’s reawakening of his faith and shortly after he regularly began going to Mass on his own.
Mathieu said he had been using online sites for a couple years to look for a wife, but there is a stigma that people are disingenuous and use these platforms just to hook up for one night stands.
“Online dating started to work when I started to be genuine and more honest with myself, for example when I clearly stated my faith on the online sites,” said Mathieu.
“You want that person to like you for who you truly are. It’s important to share your faith, share your beliefs. I think if you do that the people who reach out to you will be people who genuinely want to get to know you.”
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers