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"You're a what?" People often ask as I give some talks to confirmation groups on nights on vocations. When it is my turn and I explain that I am a Consecrated Virgin... that's consecrated NOT constipated or concentrated! (Some teens mistakenly have reported to their parents those last two titles!)
Not many folks have heard of this beautiful and ancient vocation. I had never heard of it.
After my mother died suddenly at age 50, I was angry with God for taking her and stayed away from the Church for six years. A friend invited me for four months to try this "Lifeteen Mass; there's teens there you will love it," I declined for four months until in a snowstorm my car wouldn't start and she offered me a ride home, but she said we had to go to the Mass first. Mass was great and I started attending. Months later, I saw the Passion Play acted out by the teens and as I turned to watch "Jesus" carry the cross up the aisle it was like the Holy Spirit crashed into me and I realized for the first time in my life that He was going to die for me. I then started to help with youth ministry, I was on Core Team at St. Mary Parish in Dedham Lifeteen for 13 years.
As I prepared lessons or "lifenights' for the teens, I learned about our faith and about Jesus. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I started to go to adoration and spiritual direction, I was trying to figure out my plan in life. I met with some sisters from different orders trying to discern if being a sister in a religious order was for me. It didn't seem right fit for me. I love being a nurse, I own my home, I am active in our parish and town. My spiritual director asked if I had ever heard of the vocation of Consecrated Virginity. He suggested that I connected with Sister Marian Batho, CSJ, the archdiocesan Delegate for Religious. I began to meet with her and discern this vocation. I read a very informative website for information on the vocation of Consecrated Virgin: www.consecratedvirgins.org. It describes the vocation and the discernment process very clearly. I felt in my heart that God was calling me to this vocation. There are 3,000 Consecrated Virgins in 42 countries around the world. Two-hundred fifteen Consecrated Virgins are in the United States. There are 13 Consecrated Virgins in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Jesus is the first person I talk with in the morning and the last person I talk with at night. I am honored to be his bride and bring His message to all in my workplace and community. I love to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary. Both bring great peace and strength.
What is the consecration of virgins?
The consecration of a virgin is one of the oldest sacramentals in the Church, and one of the fruits of Vatican II was the restoration of this profound blessing of virgins living in the world. The promulgation of this restored rite for women living in the world was on May 31, 1970. Through this sacramental, the virgin renews her resolve to live in perpetual virginity for God and is set aside as sacred, espoused to Christ and belonging only to Him alone. It is God Himself who accepts her resolution and makes it spiritually fruitful by the power of the Holy Spirit. This sacramental is reserved to the bishop of the diocese. The consecrated virgin shares intimately in the nature and mission of the Church: she is a living image of the Church's love for her Spouse while sharing in His redemptive mission.
The consecrated virgin lives in full communion with the Church through her spiritual bond with her bishop, the representative of Jesus Christ in her diocese; and she shares in the concerns of her diocese through their on-going communication. The consecrated virgin is responsible to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. She receives the sacraments regularly and is faithful to private prayer. She keeps as a special focus of her prayer the intentions of her bishop and clergy and the needs of her diocese. Consecrated virginity is a distinct form of consecrated life in the Church. Therefore, while it is related to other forms of consecrated life, it is not identical to any of them. The consecrated virgin living in the world, as expressed in Canon 604, is irrevocably "consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan bishop consecrates [her] according to the approved liturgical rite."
The consecrated virgin understands the positive value of living for the Lord in the midst of the world. She does not wear a habit or veil, nor does she use the title "Sister." While she may associate with other consecrated virgins for friendship and mutual encouragement, she lives her vocation individually. She provides completely for her own material needs, including medical care and retirement resources, through employment, pension or other means. At no time is her diocese financially responsible for her. Not restricted to a particular apostolate, she is free to choose her own way of serving the Church according to her natural and spiritual gifts. Consecrated virgins usually offer their free time, as they are able, to their parish, diocese, or Church-sponsored association. Some volunteer their time also in civic responsibilities. (cf. consecratedvirgins.org).
Kathy Reda is a consecrated virgin of the archdiocese of Boston who lives in Dedham and serves in various activities of St. Mary Parish there.