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Real Success: An interview with David and Noelle McHugh

March 13, 2015

We interviewed David and Noelle McHugh, a couple who met on AveMariaSingles. The McHughs were are guest speakers on last year’s Catholic singles retreat and Catholic singles cruise. People know you met on AveMariaSingles, but they might not know how you ended up there. Can you tell us about that? David: I went to Franciscan University where the majority of students are female. For whatever reason, maybe it was a combination of where I was at in discerning my vocation or just my lack of maturity in having meaningful relationships with the opposite sex, I never managed to hit it off with anyone there. Coming home after graduation though, I discovered that my best friend who graduated college at the same time had signed up for Ave Maria Singles. This discovery about my friend coupled with a renewed sense of my own masculinity that God had brought on in that point of my vocation discernment gave me the nudge I needed to sign up on AMS and begin a purposeful search for a Catholic wife.

Noelle: I had just broken up with a man I dated for a couple of years, who I thought I would marry. I remember praying about this man and some trouble we were having and hearing the Lord clearly say, “You can stay in this relationship and I will be with you. Or.. You can let to and trust that I have something better in store for you.” God put the ball in my court! So I let go of that relationship and focused on my relationship with God. In the meantime, a friend who also met her husband on Ave Maria started telling me about the site. I was very much against online dating, but she suggested I pray about it before deciding. I did, and felt that The Lord was calling me to sign up on AMS. One night, knowing the desire of my heart was a holy, Catholic husband and I needed to put myself in a place where I could find one, I prayed a Rosary and signed up!
A lot of people have hesitations about joining the site because they want a guarantee of someone nearby. What made you decide that it was worth writing to someone who lived so far away? 

David: To be honest, in the beginning I never fully thought out the implications of a long distance relationship. All I knew was that I was going to use this website as a tool to find my wife. That was my intention and I was driven by it. The only reason I contacted Noelle, a woman halfway across the country, was simply because there were no women who interested me that were either in my own state or even the neighboring states. I knew I had my limits- the girl in Hawaii never got a message from me. But, I have to imagine that if things hadn’t worked out with Noelle and there were no other closer prospectives, that Hawaiian girl could have possibly entered back onto my radar. Like I said, I was driven by the intentional purpose and pursuit of my vocation.
Noelle: When I first received a message from David, I didn’t respond right away because I was unsure of the distance. Massachusetts was not up there on the list of places I would like to live (Michigan wasn’t up there either, but I enjoyed my job and being near family.) I kept being drawn back to David’s profile though, because we had so much in common. After three days of thinking about it and reading his profile, I decided to write him back. We had too much in common for me to not write back!
We’ve heard before that the first phone call was a little awkward. What about the first meeting? 
McHughs: The first meeting was even more awkward. We had spend two months building a friendship and quasi relationship through email and regular phone conversations. Both of us felt that meeting each other in person was like starting from scratch! When you build a virtual relationship with someone online, your brain can’t help but create an idea of what that person is like when they are speaking to you on the phone or you are reading their messages. However, meeting face to face shatters that image and before you is the person as a whole- their personality, their quirks, and mannerisms. It really is a brand new experience.
What would you say to someone who has an online dating profile but isn’t interested in anyone further away than their own city? 
David: I would say, remember Abraham that even at his old age, and through leaving his home and the rest of his family, God, through that active trust, blessed him abundantly with blessings specifically associated with his marriage and vocation. Abraham could have easily said, “No. I want to stay where I am. I’m too old and I don’t want to leave my friends and family.” But then he would have never received those vocational blessings. Not all of us are going to be called to leave the job we have and our friends and family to travel hundreds of miles to find a spouse, but all of us are called to have that same trust in God’s will for our lives. We have to trust that God has a plan for our happiness which is way better than anything we could imagine.
Noelle: I would simply say… I’m pregnant with my fourth child. Ha! I really think being open is a practice and a discipline. God always calls us out of our comfort zone to keep us from getting lukewarm. For example, now… David and I don’t live in Massachusetts OR Michigan–We live in Kansas! When seeking a spouse, especially in an avenue of online dating, I think it is important to be open. We tend to put limits on God’s desire to work in our lives. We limit Him geographically… “Help me find a wife Lord, but let her be within 30 miles!” We limit His knowledge of what will make us happy, “Lord please help me find a spouse that makes x much money or looks like this or that!” If we would let go of some of the control and micromanaging of what God is doing in our lives, not only would we be more open to being led to the fulfillment of our vocation, but also we would be less anxious!
You’ve been on our retreat as well as our cruise. Tell us about that experience. 
McHughs: There were two amazing benefits that everyone got from the experience that they can take home regardless of whether or not they made any romantic connections. The first is the art of mingling and conversation! Both the retreat and cruise provide ample opportunity to practice meeting new people and taking part in interesting and engaging conversation. In the digital world nowadays, in general, that art is lost. The second benefit is the spiritual one! There were so many times of quiet reflection and inspiration given by Fr. Tom Morrow that allowed all of us to slow down and really listen to the Lord and work on our relationship with Him. We met so many wonderful people from all walks of life that we would have never met were it not for this experience. They have blessed our lives and we hope to have blessed theirs as well!
What is your advice to someone who might be interested in our trips? 
David: Come with the mindset of letting God take you deeper in your vocational journey, whether that is actually meeting somebody or encountering more deeply your identity in The Lord so that when you do find your spouse you will be able to better give a renewed version of yourself to that person.
Noelle: I agree with David and just want to add that the opportunities AMS provides aren’t with the expectation that you will find your spouse. Rather, they are creating opportunities for you to build friendships or possible relationships in a relaxed, fun, Catholic, holy atmosphere. It’s really a beautiful experience that addresses not just your own vocation, but your life with Christ to prepare you for that vocation!
So, you’ve been married 5 years, you’re expecting your 4th child, and you just recorded your first CD together. What else is ahead?  
David: Well, we are a fifth of the way there for reaching our quota of children. By the time we are done, we hope to have a full orchestra of little musicians who can accompany us on future albums. No, really we just take one day at a time being open to what God lays before us.
Noelle: Um, I am not planning to have twenty more children unless God really has some major plans for some lottery winning and perhaps giving David the ability to give birth! We are open though, like David said, to whatever God has in store for us in ministry and family. We don’t like to set plans too far ahead, because quite often God has something else in mind… And better. 🙂
You can follow Noelle Garcia McHugh online at
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