Three women from metro Detroit were the first to become consecrated virgins in the Archdiocese of Detroit. The little-known vocation involves a commitment to lifelong chastity.
Laurie Malashanko of Plymouth, Karen Ervin of Northville and Theresa Jordan of Dearborn Heights are now, in the words of Catholic canon law, “mystically betrothed to Christ.”
Unlike nuns, they are not part of a religious order. They will continue to work regular jobs and financially support themselves, while being steadfastly dedicated to serving the church.
The consecration ceremony followed years of prayer and discernment — and involved a bit of a learning curve for the Archdiocese.
There are about 250 consecrated virgins in the U.S. and 4,000 worldwide, according to Judith Stegman, president of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.
The practice dates to the church’s earliest centuries, when there were no convents.
But by the year 1139, as more women were joining religious orders, bishops stopped consecrating virgins who weren’t part of those orders. The bishops believed that women would be better protected if they lived together in religious communities, Stegman said.
In 1963, the Second Vatican Council decreed that the rite of consecrated virginity should be revised. The revision took place in 1970 to again include women who were “living in the world,” rather than just those in religious communities.
Diocesan bishops oversee and administer the rite. A woman who has never had sex has to ask for permission and assistance to be consecrated.
There is no universal blueprint for bishops or candidates to follow.