By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Rose Ripslinger has had her share of setbacks in the last year. The soccer-standout from Assumption High School in Davenport suffered a severe knee injury in practice with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes before her freshman year began in 2014, keeping her off the field for the entire year. During her recovery, she discovered a thyroid issue which will keep her from playing the first half of the upcoming season as well.
As tough as it has been, she remains optimistic that she will return to the sport she loves stronger than ever. Helping her in her journey is longtime boyfriend Andrew Quested, who also graduated from Assumption High School and attends the University of Iowa. Andrew is a constant prayer partner who has been at her side through surgeries and recovery. “He was always telling me to do my exercises, even when I didn’t want to!” Rose recalled. “It would have been hard to get through without him.”
The 19-year-olds, who describe similar personalities and Catholic faith as the glue of their relationship, are navigating through the dating period the best way they know how — with God at the center. Whether they are making decisions in their relationship or just deciding what to do on a Friday night, “Every decision and choice we make is one that we’d want God to be proud of,” Andrew said.
Marianne Agnoli, diocesan coordinator of family faith formation and lay ministry formation, knows the couple personally. She said dating “can offer a graced opportunity to learn more about yourself through a relationship with another person. It also allows a couple time to engage in those important conversations and experiences which will help them discern whether or not they are being called to the vocation of Christian marriage.”
Andrew and Rose believe they are being called to marriage. While that’s still a bit far off, they expressed their calling to their families last year and made an informal commitment to each other in the form of a promise ring.
The Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church do not explicitly discuss dating, according to Catholic Information Service’s (CIS) publication on dating. Teachings on relationships and marriage in general are used to formulate a Catholic approach. Dating, according to the CIS publication, should be a practice in Christian love, just as in any relationship. Couples are expected to respect each other — this includes refraining from any kind of abuse or violence and abstaining from any form of premarital sex. The relationship should strengthen friendships and family relationships, not destroy them. The couple should be connected to parish life.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offers resources for singles and dating couples on its website, www.foryourmarriage.org, including lists of qualities to look for, signs a relationship might not be marriage-worthy and a list of frequently asked questions. The USCCB advises Catholics, above all else, to know what they are looking for and to not compromise.
Because the church considers marriage a vocation, Catholics are encouraged to use discernment in choosing a suitable dating partner. For 25-year-old Cassidy LeClaire from Iowa City, this means sometimes saying ‘‘no’’ to men she really likes and waiting on God to show her the right person.
“I’ve never been one to enter into a relationship without the possibility of marriage in mind, but even more now I have found that really getting to know any man before entering into a relationship is critical to the discernment process,” Cassidy said. “I don’t want to settle for less than what God has planned for me, and I don’t want any other singles out there to feel they have to either.”
It isn’t easy, she admits, especially regarding sometimes awkward conversations on faith and values early on in a relationship. Topics like divorce, contraception and abortion aren’t always comfortable, “but having these discussions helps you to get to know the heart of the man and will be an indication to you as a woman whether he’s the type of man you can see yourself with.”
She believes young adult groups, while not abundant yet in the Diocese of Davenport, can be a great support for couples and singles. She feels blessed to be a part of the Young Adult Catholic group in Iowa City, describing it as a solid support and prayer group with an opportunity to learn more about the church with their peers.
The USCCB offers the following words of encouragement to those who are single and looking or currently dating: “Don’t forget to enjoy this time! Dating is not for the faint of heart, and it can feel vulnerable at times. But it can also be joyful and exciting, especially if the person you’ve grown to enjoy and love becomes the person you marry.”