‘Take a vow’

‘Consecrated virginity’ is on the rise, according to the Vatican

Laurie Malashanko, Theresa Jordan and Karen Ervin becoming 'brides of Christ.' (YouTube / Catholic News Service)

More women are choosing to devote themselves to God by taking lifelong vows of chastity, according to the Catholic Church.

The Vatican recently issued guidance on “consecrated virginity” to better direct bishops who had reported “rapidly” growing interest among women in congregations around the world. The pledge to the spiritual vocation involves women remaining celibate for their entire lives in order to devote themselves fully and become “mystical brides” of Christ.

What’s the difference between consecrated virginity and becoming a nun? Consecrated virgins don’t work within the church, and instead live in their own homes and work conventional jobs to financially support themselves while serving the church, according to The Independent.

The Vatican’s newly issued guidance states women must “follow Christ [and] embrace his chaste, poor and obedient way of life” and “dedicate themselves to prayer, penance, the works of mercy and the apostolate.” Consecrated virgins must be admitted by a diocesan bishop and are often counseled by priests prior to the ceremony.

The practice dates back to ancient Rome, but was usurped by communal aspects of spiritual devotion and religious communities including convents. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Vatican began bringing it back to public consciousness. “Since this form of consecrated life was reintroduced in the church, there has been a real revival of the Ordo virginum [Order of Virgins],” Archbishop Jose Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, told The Independent.

Awareness of the “misunderstood” lifestyle is growing, according to Judith Stegman, president of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. “Clearly, as it becomes known more and more, there’s been a continual increase in women who are interested in the vocation, asking about it and becoming consecrated, especially as various bishops become more aware of it and encourage it in their dioceses,” she told The Independent.

There are thought to be up to 5,000 consecrated virgins globally, ranging across continents and cultural contexts. Last year three women participated in a consecration ceremony in Detroit. As one of those women told The Detroit Free Press, “It’s not a vocation you can just 1-2-3 get into,” said Theresa Jordan. “It takes a lot of formation, study and prayer.”

Read the full story at The Independent.

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