Spiritual journey leads to the life of consecrated virginity

Spiritual journey leads to the life of consecrated virginity
Christina Hip-Flores

Christina Hip-Flores

When AnnaMae Muryasz was consecrated to God, by Bishop Dennis Sullivan as a virgin in the world on Jan. 21 in Camden’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Christina Hip-Flores was with her.

Hip-Flores, 37 years old, knows the call Muryasz heard to “represent the church and be the Bride of Christ,” she says.

In 2012 Hip-Flores, who works three days a week as a judge in the Camden Diocesan Office of the Tribunal, became a consecrated virgin.

Born in Piscataway, N.J., to a half-Chinese/half-Cuban father and Italian mother, she doesn’t remember attending Mass with her family much beyond during Christmas and Easter.

It was while studying at Princeton University for a degree in international relations that she “started understanding what we believe as Catholics.”

As a freshman, she started attending daily Mass during Lent, a tradition she still holds to. She taught religious education at a local parish. And, after her first year, she went on a “life-changing” mission trip to Mexico.

The Mexico visit “was the first time I saw the Catholic Church in action in charitable endeavors,” she says.

She finished her four years at Princeton and soon found a job with the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., but found herself “conflicted.” The mission trip to Mexico, and the work of the church, still pulled at her.

“It was a very good job, but I wanted to go back on mission,” she said. So after two years, in 2001, she quit her job and began a missionary year in Cuba, her father’s birthplace, in the Archdiocese of Santiago.

After another missionary trip to South America, Hip-Flores returned to Washington, D.C., and began to work with Catholic Charities and, later, in the archdiocesan chancery offices.

As early as the age of 19, she said, she began to feel that God was calling her to a life of consecrated virginity, one that called her to be “an image of the church, and in our own bodies, be the Bride of Christ.”

“God always gives you a vocation that’s perfect for you,” she said. “It might be hard, but it’s hard in a way that’s good for you, that’s right for you, and that stretches you in the right direction.”

In 2010, she finished her licentiate in canon law from The Catholic University of America, Washington, and began going back to Santiago more frequently.

She emailed the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, in 2010, “to ask if he would consecrate me, but he said no, because he had never met me,” Hip-Flores said.

“He did say, though, that he needed a canon lawyer, and I began volunteering there in the tribunal.”

Eventually the archbishop agreed to consecrate her to God, and on July 24, 2012, the feast of St. Christina, in the Church of Santa Lucia, she received a veil, representing her submission to the Church of Christ through her archbishop; a ring, representing her espousal to Christ; and a liturgy of the hours, to be prayed every day, representing her public state of consecrated life.

Shortly after her consecration, she began working for the Camden Diocese as a judge in the Office of the Tribunal. Three days a week, she works there and stays with the Medical Missionary Sisters in Camden. The rest of her time is spent in Washington, D.C., where she is a consultor for the Archdiocese of Washington and has a permanent residence, and in Santiago, where she works in the tribunal offices four times a year.

As well, Hip-Flores is working on her doctorate in canon law from the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain, which she hopes to complete later this year.

Although her clothing does not identify her as someone living out a consecrated vocation, Hip-Flores doesn’t shy away when people realize what she has been called to, “for the service of the church,” whether it be at work or in a secular environment.

“That’s the way you evangelize,” she said. “It might strike up a good conversation.”

“I’ve always had an immense love for the church. When I realized what being a consecrated virgin meant, I thought ‘that is myself, I don’t have to change at all.’

“It required me to take a leap of faith, and jump into Jesus’ arms, but I see myself fulfilled.”

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