On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (2024)

“Even when you find someone, there’s no such thing as perfect in this world.
You must have God at the center of everything.” – Lauren Vasquez

On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (1)Lauren and Alex Vasquez

Holy Trinity Middle School alumni Alex and Lauren Vasquez almost missed out on a life of love and happiness together. After a decade of personal struggles and near connections, the couple managed to find each other and discover that God’s timing is best.

CHARLOTTE — Lauren remembers the day back in 2004 when Alex Vasquez walked into her gym class.

A lifelong Catholic school kid in Charlotte, she knew everyone in seventh grade at Holy Trinity Middle School, many of them since kindergarten.

So when the new boy arrived from Texas, with wavy brown hair and a steady gaze, Lauren fell for him instantly. But he didn’t notice her.

The couple wouldn’t meet again for 14 years – each with a story of struggle and faith, including an event that nearly took the life of one of them.

It’s a love story, with Catholic roots.

On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (2)


Lauren Hachen’s diary starts their story.

She wrote about Alex with all the angst of a 13-year-old crush: “Does he like me?…Does he ever think about me?...Does he even know I exist?”

On March 1, 2005, she lamented that “Alex isn’t on my team, but he’s in my gym class and health class.”

And while she was hopeful, she remained true to herself: “If he asks me out, then I’ll say yes, but I would/will be myself. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not.”

Even today she remembers details: “Alex was the new student, and my eyes were definitely on him. I just had the biggest crush on him. I remember hearing him cheering me on in our gym class during our Presidential Fitness Test.”

On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (3)Lauren HachenOn Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (4)Alex Vasquez

Alex was “oblivious,” his father says, “in that way that middle school boys often are.”

His family had just moved to Charlotte that year from Houston. “As the new kid from Texas, I was more interested in holding up the brick wall at Holy Trinity than socializing,” Alex says. “I just hung out with people who were plus or minus two letters from my last name, and Lauren’s maiden name started at the beginning of the alphabet.”

“It’s totally not his fault,” Lauren adds. “He was the new student, but to this day, he always says it’s because I must have been hiding behind my bangs after he saw my yearbook pictures.”

They never really hung out while at Holy Trinity. Lauren went on to Charlotte Catholic High School and Alex moved to Marvin Ridge High School in Union County. Four years later, they had another near miss when both enrolled at Appalachian State University in Boone.

“Our paths must have crossed, but we never recognized each other while we were there, and I left sophom*ore year because it was just too cold,” Alex recalls. “I’m sure we saw each other at McAlister’s Deli – Lauren later said she’d get the loaded baked potato and I told her I got the club sandwich. So, middle school was a bust, and then college was, too.”

Alex came home to Charlotte, finished college at Queens University, then moved to Houston to work in digital marketing. Lauren went on to graduate school at Appalachian State, became a pediatric speech language pathologist and came home to Charlotte for work. After about a year in Houston, Alex also came back to North Carolina – again, the new guy from Texas.

Settled into their careers and back on familiar ground, each felt ready to start dating – and joined the same dating app.

Soon the app alerted them that they each had a match. Recalls Lauren, “I saw his picture, which is so funny to me because the last time I saw him was in middle school with surfer hair. On his profile picture, he had a beard, but I knew it was him.”

Excitedly, she called her mom. “You’re not going to believe this, but I’m going to go on a date with my middle school crush.”

“You might want to save that information until the third date,” her mom advised.

Meanwhile, Alex noticed that they had friends in common, all from Holy Trinity Middle School. “I figured this is safe.”


The two went out on a Thursday night in October to Duckworth’s Grill, and a Panthers game was on TV in the background. That first date lasted four hours as they talked about their families, their shared Catholic faith, hobbies, careers – but not everything.

After only a couple months, Alex knew Lauren was the one for him. He started planning how he would propose at Lauren’s favorite vacation spot at Ocean Isle Beach. He asked Lauren’s father for permission to marry his daughter and hid her engagement ring in a mini Altoids tin. The big moment arrived on what looked to be a dreary day at the beach. However, the sky cleared around sunset, so Alex and Lauren walked down to the shore. To Lauren’s surprise, Alex then got down on one knee. She was so shocked that she also kneeled down at first.

On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (5)On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (6)“It looked like we were proposing to each other,” Lauren recalls laughing. “Alex was like, ‘No, no, no! You stand.’ I was so surprised and so happy.”

Of course, Lauren said yes, and both their families were thrilled about their engagement.

For Lauren, reconnecting with Alex was all part of God’s plan.

“I was ready to live alone because no one understood me, so I just accepted it, but my mom was like, ‘No, you’re going to find someone.’ I said, ‘You’re crazy.’ Then I just kept praying to God. I was just like, ‘OK, God, if this is your plan, I’m fine either way.’ A few nights after that prayer, Alex came into my life.”

Alex also feels they were meant to be together.

“When I was living in Houston before I moved back to Charlotte,” he says, “I came home for a weekend and my parents’ neighbor, one of their best friends, was asking how life was going. I told her, and she paused and looked at me, held my hand and said, ‘You’re going to be with someone who’s from your past.’”

In his mind Alex pictured his ex-girlfriends and thought, “There’s no way.”

He dismissed the neighbor’s remarks and changed the subject. Less than a year later, he met Lauren.

They married on Aug. 2, 2019, at St. Matthew Church in Charlotte and honeymooned on a Baltic Sea cruise.


Alex and Lauren know their love story sounds like a Hallmark movie, but their paths before reconnecting were not so smooth.

The colder climate wasn’t the only reason Alex left Boone. At 19, he had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It was a pediatric variant, and the best treatment options were at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

“I had just finished my freshman year at App State,” he recalls. “There are toddlers walking around, and here I am, a 19-year-old patient with a beard.”

He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, then received a bone marrow transplant from his brother Andrew. Part of his treatment involved total body radiation, he says – “essentially standing in front of a giant X-ray machine.” It left him unable to have children, but the treatment was successful and in 2012 his cancer was declared in remission.

A few dates into their relationship, Alex told Lauren about his health scare. And Lauren had her own health news to share with him.

When she was 17, Lauren had begun experiencing vision problems. She was diagnosed with a rare, progressive genetic eye problem called Stargardt disease.

Lauren went on to complete a master’s degree despite the disease leaving her legally blind.

The shared experience of having health struggles as teenagers only brought the couple closer.


Alex and Lauren feel their story was meant to be, and they relied on their lifelong Catholic faith through it all.

“We both agree that our faith and values are what brought us together,” Lauren says.

From that teenage crush in gym class at Holy Trinity Middle School, through college and young adulthood, and through their health challenges, both say they are grateful for the ups and downs, for God and for each other.

Now, the couple is praying they will be able to adopt and grow their family. They trust that this next chapter in their story is all still part of God’s plan for them.

“Life in general, no matter what you’re thrown, can be extremely lonely,” Lauren says. “Even when you find someone, there’s no such thing as perfect in this world. You must have God at the center of everything.”

“Even when you have your spouse, family and friends to get you through, it’s still hard,” adds Alex. “There’s got to be something higher, someone higher, and we know it’s God.”

— Annie Ferguson

On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (7)

On Valentine’s Day: A Catholic love story (2024)
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