Consecrated virginity: a special vocation

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
As a consecrated virgin, Nicole Bettini lives in perpetual virginity as an exclusive spouse of Christ. Bettini, a religious education and youth ministry coordinator at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul, became a consecrated virgin in 2007. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

As a consecrated virgin, Nicole Bettini lives in perpetual virginity as an exclusive spouse of Christ. Bettini, a religious education and youth ministry coordinator at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul, became a consecrated virgin in 2007. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Nicole Bettini gives her spouse everything. And Christ, her husband, has not been outdone in generosity.

Since her consecration as a virgin by Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn in 2007, Bettini has lived in a spousal relationship that in some ways resembles marriage and in other ways religious life. She and others want more Catholics to know about it.

Consecrated virginity is “a vocation that you hold nothing back from our Lord and that you found one that’s worth giving everything for, just lived in the world,” said Bettini, a religious education and youth ministry coordinator at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul.

Consecrated virgins are women who publicly resolve to live in perpetual virginity as an exclusive spouse of Christ. One of the first consecration rites established in the early Church, the consecration of a virgin in the world was mostly forgotten during much of Church history until its restoration after the Second Vatican Council.

At a ceremony much like a wedding, virgins are consecrated by the local bishop and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to live out the spousal relationship. Consecrated virgins reflect the Church’s love for Christ, and serve the Church.

As the spouse of Christ, consecrated virgins “witness as individual women this very specific relationship as a spouse of Christ,” said Sister Carolyn Puccio, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet who in January became the archdiocesan delegate for religious, which includes serving as a liaison between consecrated virgins and Archbishop John Nienstedt.

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The 10 consecrated virgins in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis range in age from 36 to 70 and work in a variety of professions.

During the vocation’s discernment and formation process, candidates for consecration meet with a mentor and Archbishop Nienstedt, who oversees the archdiocese’s consecrated virgins.

Consecrated virgins must physically be virgins, age 30 or older and women, because only women can physically represent a bride. The vocation is also permanent and public, Bettini said.

Having a regular schedule of a prayer life is a characteristic of consecrated virgins, said Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, also a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She served as delegate for religious before her recent retirement. “They bring what you would see the religious bringing, except they bring it in an individual way. They’re working in their professional world or their vocational world bringing the Gospel to the people that they live with, that they work with, just like religious do,” she said.

Dr. Linda Long, a retired cardiologist who was the first to be consecrated in the archdiocese almost 19 years ago, said one of her “sub vocations” in the Church has been supporting and “mothering” seminarians and young clergy.

While consecrated virginity resembles religious life, women don’t make vows, and they don’t share in a religious community.

Long, a parishioner at St. Agnes in St. Paul, said consecration has given her peace and joy. “Secondly,” she said, “it gave me a sense of having a place, of really belonging in the Church, and that gave me far more freedom internally at work and in my private life.”

Sister Carolyn would like to make consecrated virginity better known.

“My guess is that other women are possibly called to that vocation, but aren’t aware of it,” she said.

Soon, updated materials, including a brochure, will be available at parishes.

For information about consecrated virginity, contact the delegate for religious at delegate@archspm.org or call (651) 290-1635.

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Category: Featured, Vocations