Valentine’s Day, Catholic Matchmaking and the T. Lawrason Riggs Archives

Today is Valentine’s Day, and for that, this librarian rejoices. For it is a day that always prompts me to think about my relationships (filial, platonic, romantic, etc…) and anticipate the discounted chocolate that comes the day after (I am not refraining from chocolate this Lenten season). It also makes me think about a couple of chaplain’s reports I recently found in our T. Lawrason Riggs Archives. Did you know Saint Thomas More has a tradition of Catholic matchmaking? I didn’t—until I read the reports of Fr. Edwin O’Brien, STM’s second chaplain.

In October 1955, Fr. O’Brien wrote to his Board of Trustees that he and his staff “have been trying to have our [Yale] men meet Catholic girls in nearby colleges.” Fr. O’Brien considered this to be a necessary addition to Yale Catholic programming because Yale College, then all male, already arranged co-ed social mixers with Smith and Vassar, area women’s colleges mostly attended by Protestants. “Many of our men have known only non-Catholic girls,” he lamented.

Fr. O’Brien goes on to mention that STM (then called the More House) hosted a dance for freshman Yalies with “the young ladies of Albertus Magnus College,” a Catholic college in New Haven, CT. Fr. O’Brien also mentioned the efforts of Mother Morgan at Manhattanville College, who invited Yalies to spend time with Catholic girls at “social functions there.”

These yearly dances and co-ed social outings continued to be a core component of STM programming for the rest of the 1950s, with one addition: On April 28, 1958, O’Brien wrote to the trustees that he had started a co-ed discussion group with Catholic clubs from Smith, Vassar, Mt. Holyoke and Manhattanville. The group met every other Sunday.

Original Illustration by the Office of Douglas Orr (New Haven), date unknown

These dances, outings and discussion groups were a part of STM’s mission to help prepare Yalies for an adult Catholic life that was full and faithful, which mostly meant becoming married parishioners or priests. Fr O’Brien’s reports to the trustees also mentioned when a Yalie decided to enter into the priesthood.

Though our Chaplain and Assistant Chaplains no longer devote part of their board reports to detailing matchmaking initiatives, STM still tries to foster an environment for our students in which love and like-mindedness can flourish. I’d like to think that like the Yalies of the mid-Twentieth Century, our current students are also able to meet and partner with people who will help them live out a full and faithful adult Catholic life: whether it be with a best friend, a like-minded group of colleagues and yes, sometimes even a life partner.

So this Valentine’s Day, do enjoy all of your relationships—the ones you have created, and the ones you have yet to discover—and know that STM is here to help you make even more.

~Sarah L. Woodford (Your Librarian)