Courtesy photo
Archbishop Sample and Father Jose Ortega gather for retreat with consecrated virgins.
Courtesy photo
Archbishop Sample and Father Jose Ortega gather for retreat with consecrated virgins.
BEAVERTON — Consecrated virgins from five different U.S. dioceses gathered for a weekend retreat at Our Lady of Peace Retreat House in August. Archbishop Alexander Sample and Holy Spirit Missionary Father Jose Ortega gave presentations.  

Consecrated virgins of the Archdiocese of Portland who participated were Regina Dibb, Loretta Matulich and Elizabeth Sledge.  
Also on retreat were Elizabeth Lam of the Oakland Diocese, Renee Fox of the Seattle Archdiocese. From Wisconsin came Barbara Swieciak of the La Crosse Diocese and Helen Simon of the Madison Diocese.

Archbishop Sample said the consecrated virgin’s mission is to pray for priests and for the spiritual fruitfulness of their ministry. The sanctity of priests and bishops will foster the growth in holiness among the people in their care, he said.

He noted that the very living of the vocation is the essential value of consecrated virginity in the Church; the good deeds that a consecrated virgin performs throughout her life are the not primary value of her vocation, but only an overflowing of her bond of love with God. In other words, he said, “doing flows from being.”

A virgin becomes a consecrated virgin when she receives the official Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the world from her bishop. Among the oldest sacramentals in the Church, its restoration was one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. Consecration is irrevocable.

Through the sacramental, a woman renews her resolve to live in perpetual virginity for God and is set aside as sacred, espoused to Christ. Canon 604 of the Code of Canon Law says that consecrated “virgins are mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.”

A consecrated virgin lives in the midst of the world, wearing neither special apparel nor known by any special title. She provides completely for her own material needs. She is free to choose her own way of serving the Church according to her natural and spiritual gifts, often offering her spare time to her parish, diocese or Church-sponsored organization. Many volunteer for social or civic responsibilities.  

For women living in the world, the introductory norms in the Rite of Consecration state the following:  “That they have never married or lived in public or open violation of chastity; that by their age, prudence, and universally approved character they give assurance of perseverance in a life of chastity dedicated to the service of the Church and of their neighbor; that they be admitted to this Consecration by the bishop who is the local Ordinary.”  

It is assumed that a woman who aspires to the consecration has been living a private resolve of perpetual virginity for the sake of Jesus Christ for several years.  A period of discernment and preparation, normally under the guidance of a spiritual director, precedes the consecration in order to ensure the virgin’s understanding of and readiness to receive the sacramental.