Fort Wayne, Indiana, theology teacher Jessica Hayes dedicated her life to Christ in a ceremony that has not been performed in over 25 years in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
The ceremony, during which the bride vowed eternal love and devotion to her groom, was conducted by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and took place at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. She was a religious sister who transferred her consecrated life to the Ecclesial Order of Virgins for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 1990.
Hayes will keep her job and her name, and she is not becoming a nun, but she may not marry and will live a life of prayer and service to the church, the newspaper reported.
About 200 consecrated virgins live in the United States and about 3,000 worldwide.
Hayes, a 38-year-old theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School, says her decision to marry the son of God wasn’t an easy one.
Hayes said she hoped word of her holy matrimony may inspire or educate others, especially those who may not have heard of this life before and may consider it for themselves.
But the consecration rules out marriage in the future, and Hayes will live a life of prayer and service to church. She still got the excitement of choosing a wedding dress, although her concerns were slightly different than most brides. “I already had a good foundation for the spiritual life but what I hadn’t had up to that point were good tools for discerning my vocation”.
Although the act of becoming a consecrated virgin is a representation of a spiritual change in an individual, it does bring with it some hardship and temptation. “I wanted my shoulders to be covered, and I would have to lie prostrate before the altar, so I really wanted to make sure that I was well-covered in a way that still shows the beauty of a bride”, Hayes said.
“My marriage is to Christ and someone else’s marriage is to their spouse”.
“I think that in some sense, we’re all called to be married”.
Hayes said this is a vocation for women who feel a deeper call to spend their life more in knowing with Jesus.
Hayes’ dedication will not find her following the path of a nun or other religious sister.
“I do think that not everybody has the same path”, she said. “I can very much see that is what God’s plan is for her”.
At the same time she’s committed 100% to the church, serving it “in whatever capacity is needed and whatever capacity my own gifts are available form”, she said. “The real question is how, how is this lived most joyfully in me”, Ms Hayes said. As Catholics and as Christians, we’re all called to that loving relationship with our God.