In historic first for the Archdiocese of Detroit, three women to be consecrated as virgins June 24

In a first for the Archdiocese of Detroit, three women will be consecrated as virgins at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on June 24. Karen Ervin, Laurie Malashanko and Theresa Jordan will declare their intent to live as “faithful spouses of Christ” by living out their call to celibacy in the world.

Living in the world, trio discerned calling to little-known vocation

Plymouth — Karen Ervin couldn’t wait to share the good news with her friends and family.

She has the dress all picked out, a church ready to go, a date set — all the makings of a typical Catholic wedding.

On June 24, Ervin, a parishioner at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth and principal of St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Wixom, will be celebrating one of the most important days of her life.

But the news Ervin shared with her friends seemed to bring up more questions than answers. She, along with Theresa Jordan and Laurie Malashanko, are to be consecrated to a life of perpetual virginity.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron will consecrate them at 11 a.m. on June 24 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

“Consecrated what?” Ervin’s friends ask as she explains her vocation.

Consecrated virgins are married to Jesus, declaring their intent to the bishop of their diocese to be faithful spouses to Christ.

“People that are in the Church usually ask if I’m becoming a religious sister,” Ervin said in an interview with The Michigan Catholic. “I answer no, I’m not going to become a religious sister, and I’m not going to be living in a community.”

Susan Cummins, regional coordinator of evangelization for the South Region of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is a consecrated virgin currently living in the archdiocese after being consecrated June 24, 2002, at St. Mary Cathedral in the Diocese of Lansing by Bishop Carl Mengeling.

“This particular vocation is for women who are called to live a life consecrated to Jesus and to the service of his Church in the world,” Cummins explained. “They are not called to a particular religious order. There are no vows. The bishop consecrates the virgins using the ancient Rite of Consecration Virgins Living in the World. The women are set aside for perpetual virginity, a publically consecrated life, but living in the world.”

Consecrated virgins have “9-to-5” jobs, supporting themselves. They do not live in a religious community and do not wear habits. On their “big day,” the three women will be wearing traditional wedding dresses and walk up the aisle to Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron to make a lifelong commitment to Jesus.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for years,” said Jordan, a member of St. Albert the Great Parish in Dearborn Heights and professor of French at Marygrove College. “I didn’t know about consecrated virgins until I read a Michigan Catholic article in January of 2013. The article featured a woman from the Diocese of Lansing and women from the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. These women lived in the world, kept their jobs, living with their families and in the community, but were a spouse to Christ.”

Each of the women have considered other vocations, from the married life to joining a religious order.

“Around Easter when I was in the seventh grade, I had a mature prayer life,” said Malashanko, a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth. “I was very motherly as a little girl, so I thought for that reason I would be a physical mother. As I got older, I was pretty wide open, thinking I could become a sister. Then I thought about marriage, dated in high school and college.

“Then, about 10 years ago, a priest friend introduced me to consecrated virginity. I Googled it, but the article had some misinformation.”

Malashanko waited another two years before doing more research about consecrated virginity. At the time, she was working for the Russel Kirk Center in Mecosta, a small town east of Big Rapids, and knew she was going to move to Ann Arbor or Detroit soon.

She moved to the Archdiocese of Detroit in April 2011 as the acquisitions editor for Gale Cengage, living in Plymouth. That’s when she committed to formation to becoming a consecrated virgin.

“I approached the Archdiocese of Detroit for six years,” Malashanko said. “It took years for the research, prayer, and preparation to be ready for consecration.”

The three women prayed and studied with Cummins— and met occasionally with Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon. Cummins said the process for discernment and preparation for consecrated virginity puts a great emphasis on the individual.

Each woman’s spiritual director plays an important role in the process of discernment and preparation, but there is a great emphasis put on the individual in living out the vocation.

While living as a consecrated virgin in the world might seem a bit out of the ordinary, Cummins says the it’s one of the oldest vocations in the Church, dating back to the early church. In the late 400s the rite of consecration of virgins began to be used for nuns living in monasteries; eventually the Rite of Consecrated Virgins for women in the world fell into disuse.

In 1970, after the Second Vatican Council, the rite was revised and restored for use for women living in the world.

“It’s a different calling than living a religious life,” Cummins said. “Some women are called to join an order, but for consecrated virgins, it’s a particular calling to live their consecrated life in the world.”

That life of prayer and service looks different for each woman, just as each marriage has its own unique quirks.

But for the three women who will make their resolutions before the archbishop, a common foundation is their desire to spend the rest of their lives with Jesus.

“There is something in me that was always empty,” Ervin explained about her feelings leading up to the big day. “I always knew I belonged to God, but haven’t made it official. This is my consecration back to Him.”

Because of the counter-cultural nature of their vocation, the three women are used to having to explain their decision to others, often skeptics. But they said their friends and family can see a glow in them since they’ve made their decision, knowing they have found where God is calling them.

“I always wanted to be closer to Christ,” Jordan said. “I’m in love with his purity, his virginity, his mystery. I very much want to be a spouse to Christ. I definitely feel much closer to Jesus, even than what I am right now.

“When I make my profession, I’ll be making a living testimony of my love for Christ. This specific vocation is what will happen to us in the heavenly kingdom – we will all be married to Christ. I get to live this out right now on earth.”