A suitable groom or bride can be cumbersome to find. Profiles on matrimonial websites can be bogus, and brokers are only interested in commissions. To deal with these issues, and ensure that people marry within the faith, a group of Catholic priests came up with a solution—their own matrimonial website.
Chavara Matrimony, managed by priests of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Fathers (CMI) in Kochi, Kerala, is today a leading matchmaking portal for Catholics, with new members enrolling from various parts of the country and other nations. According to the portal, 1,200 to 1,500 new members sign up every month, with 50 to 60 successful matches taking place.
Initially started in 1996 as a list of names, addresses and photographs of those looking for a match that was put up on the notice board of the CMI’s Kochi office, the online version took shape two years later. “We would often get queries from families asking us if we knew of suitable grooms or brides. Then, the only option was matchmakers, who were only interested in making money. We tried to help these families by collecting names and addresses of those looking for matches. These requests increased, and we soon decided to expand this into a matrimonial website,” says Father Jose Panampuzha, assistant director of the website.
Many from the church and lay community were surprised when the priests founded the portal. “They said, ‘How can priests run a matrimonial website?’ Some even thought we wanted to make money,” Father Panampuzha says. The only charge is an annual registration fee of Rs 3,300. In the first few years, there were only a few members. “Many women did not even want to upload their photographs, apprehensive that it might be misused. But over the years, the numbers picked up,” he says.
The portal now runs a total of 12 centres across the state, with around 70 staff members. Those interested can call up or visit the centres to register themselves at the website. By December, another centre will be launched in Bangalore. The website also offers a bi-monthly meet between families interested in getting their children married. An annual Chavara Mega Marriage Meet is also organised every November, in which 500 to 700 families participate.▪