Consecrated as a virgin living in the world

Consecrated as a virgin living in the world
AnnaMae Muryasz stands to the left of Bishop Dennis Sullivan in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Camden, on Jan. 21 following the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity. Also pictured, from left, are Deacon Jerry Jablonowski; Father Hugh McSherry, OFM; Father Michael Field; Christina Hip-Flores, Consecrated Virgin, Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba; Father James Bartoloma; Dr. Jewel Brennan, Consecrated Virgin, Diocese of Trenton; Father Robert Hughes; Carolyn Blaszczyk, Consecrated Virgin, Diocese of Harrisburg; Father Nicholas Dudo; Deacon Michael Carter; and Father Joseph Wallace. Photo by James A. McBride

AnnaMae Muryasz stands to the left of Bishop Dennis Sullivan in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Camden, on Jan. 21 following the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity. Also pictured, from left, are Deacon Jerry Jablonowski; Father Hugh McSherry, OFM; Father Michael Field; Christina Hip-Flores, Consecrated Virgin, Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba; Father James Bartoloma; Dr. Jewel Brennan, Consecrated Virgin, Diocese of Trenton; Father Robert Hughes; Carolyn Blaszczyk, Consecrated Virgin, Diocese of Harrisburg; Father Nicholas Dudo; Deacon Michael Carter; and Father Joseph Wallace.
Photo by James A. McBride

On Jan. 21 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden, AnnaMae Muryasz was consecrated to God by Bishop Dennis Sullivan as a virgin living in the world. The ceremony took place on the feast of St. Agnes, a young virgin and martyr who died on that date in the year 304 during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Paul wrote that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord” (1Cor. 12:4-5). The church always strives to foster the gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to the followers of Jesus Christ and also encourage the “different forms of service” which the followers of the Lord can give and do in his name.

The “spiritual gifts” and the “forms of service” can be very diverse within the church. Some gifts and callings are familiar to most Catholics such as the vocations to married life, or the priesthood, or the diaconate, or to the life of a religious sister or brother. But because the spiritual gifts and God’s plan and calling for individuals can be even broader than these kind of lives, the church tries to foster further forms of consecrated life which can do a great deal of good spiritually and build up the Kingdom of God within the world.

The purpose and life of a woman who is consecrated as a virgin living in the world is one of the unique forms of consecrated life. It is a life that has its roots in the early church from a time before the spread and development of more formal institutions such as monasteries and convents. Even before there were convents, some Christian women would offer their lives to God as consecrated virgins. Sometimes they would live, pray and work with one another in small communities. But to a certain extent, there were also consecrated women living “in the world” and outside of the monastic, religious life of nuns.

In our times, the church tries to encourage women who feel called to this form of consecrated life and foster their vocations. Such a woman continues to live her life, work at her job, be with her family and friends, yet at the same time, she is called by God and set apart. She offers her whole self to Christ the Lord through a special consecration by the diocesan bishop and in a mystical way becomes a spouse of Christ.

There are different traditions and customs within the ceremony of the consecration of a virgin, but one of the significant moments is when she receives a ring from the bishop who says, “Receive the ring that marks you as a bride of Christ….” For her consecration, AnnaMae received an intertwined, triple-banded ring symbolizing the Blessed Trinity.

There is a special bond between the consecrated virgin and the diocesan bishop. Unlike religious sisters who in a sense leave their home to join a community which may send them to serve God’s people in a variety of areas, the consecrated virgin typically remains within her diocese and continues to live and work as she had before; except after the consecration there is a new dimension to what she is doing and her connection to the local church.

AnnaMae Muryasz is currently the Pastoral Associate, Life-Long Faith Director, and Director of Religious Education at Notre Dame de la Mer Parish in Wildwood. She will still continue in this position and live the same life that she has always lived for the most part. What is different now, though, is that she has been consecrated to God in a very special way and also from now on has a unique spiritual connection to the local church and the Bishop of Camden. The bishop may entrust special, diocesan prayer intentions to her from time to time and he will also always ask her to pray for and continue to dedicate her whole self to the good of the local church.

Father Bartoloma is the chancellor of the Diocese of Camden.