By Susan Gately - 15 February, 2019
But numbers of couples getting married are down, says chief matchmaker, Leona Connery.
Athough Ireland’s oldest matchmaking agency, Knock Marriage Introductions (formerly Knock Marriage Bureau), has matched almost 1,000 couples in its 51-year history, 2018 was not a good year for marriages for the agency.
Speaking yesterday, St Valentine’s Day, Leona Connery, its chief matchmaker, said that in 2018 just two people had got engaged and none had married, although they had more or less the same number of applications as the previous year – around 160.
“Now marriages are down though people are in long-term relationships. They are not rushing into marriage,” she told CatholicIreland.net. Most of Knock’s applications last year came from men and women aged between 30 and 50, though there were a few people in their 70s. “Some of them would be widowers or widows. Maybe they just want to meet for companionship, for going out or whatever.”
The agency’s director, Fr Stephen Farragher, told CatholicIreland.net that in 2019 the agency, which occupies a ‘niche market’, is “looking at new ways of marketing itself”. He has been director for a year-and-a-half, taking over from the legendary Canon Joseph Connery, who worked alongside Leona for years matching couples.
Ms Connery told CatholicIreland.net that she takes a personal interest in each match and says a prayer for guidance each day as she sits at her desk. With each person she feels a special bond, living the ups and downs of each relationship with him or her. Just days ago she got a phone call to say a six-month relationship had ended. “I said ‘Oh, what a time of year to end a relationship’. She was so upset. I thought it was lovely, though, what she said: ‘If you’re to introduce him to somebody else, I hope he meets somebody nice because he’s the nicest guy.’”
She keeps in touch with them until they get married – also to keep her records straight, she says. “Sometimes people are going out for three years, and I’d ask them ‘Any word of an engagement or getting married? I won’t be annoying you once you get married!’ You get to know some of them very well!”
Currently the agency has 10 more women than men. Leona makes the matches, first of all on a county basis. “I wouldn’t expect anyone to travel more than an hour. It’s hard to keep a relationship going if you have to drive more than two hours for a date,” she says. She tries to keep the ages within a five-year range. A disparity in education is not necessarily a block to a relationship. Currently all the ‘ladies on the books’ have third level qualifications.
Applications, which can be downloaded from the website www.knockmarriageintroductions.com, come in by post and St Valentine’s day too brought the application of a man in his 30s seeking a life-long partner.
Knock Marriage Introductions was established in 1968 with the aim of helping people to meet suitable marriage partners. A branch of Catholic Action, it presumes that all applicants are free to marry and seeking a Catholic marriage. “In the early years, there were more applicants,” says Leona. “There weren’t annulments. If we could take divorced and separated people we’d be extremely busy. Some send in their applications and they get annoyed [when they’re turned away]. But that’s the rules of the Knock Introductions and rules of the Church.”