Local women live as brides of Christ in world

Today, there are more than 215 consecrated virgins living in the United States and some 3,000 living worldwide, according to the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. The women profess their love for Christ and vow perpetual virginity, dedicating themselves to serving the Church in the world.

Four women who live as consecrated virgins in the Denver Archdiocese spoke to the Denver Catholic Register about their vocation as a bride of Christ in the world.

Anne Inkret

Anne Inkret wears a ring on her finger, but she doesn’t have a husband. She’s often asked about this outward sign of the sacramental she received as a consecrated virgin living the world. “What if you meet Mr. Right?” some will ask.

“I say, ‘Well, I have,’” said 53-year-old Inkret.

Like nuns, she’s a bride of Christ and commits to a life of service to him and his Church. But Inkret and other consecrated virgins are free to choose how to serve without restrictions to a particular apostolate.

Celeste Thomas

Retired speech pathologist Celeste Thomas always thought she would marry one day. She did, but never imagined her spouse would be Jesus and her mother-in-law, Mary.

She first learned about consecrated virgins living in the world while visiting Rome but later met a man and nearly married.

“I had a real come-to-Jesus moment about my faith and what marital love means and a whole reawakening of my faith life,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t called to get married to this person, and actually I wasn’t called to get married at all.”

After several promptings, Thomas discerned and prepared for consecration. In 2003, she and Inkret became consecrated virgins living in the world.

Theresita Polzin

Theresita Polzin, the oldest consecrated virgin in the archdiocese, was consecrated in a ceremony Feb. 11, 1999, at Presentation of Our Lady Parish in Denver.

“I was 83 when I heard about it,” she said.

Polzin said her vocation is aimed at helping the growth of the Church on earth.

“You can keep doing what you’re doing in world provided you’re acting like spouse of Christ when do it,” Polzin said.

Betsy Lillis

Betsy Lillis said she’d choose to be a consecrated virgin living in the world again if given a choice.

“I’d do it all over again,” said the 74-year-old who works for Christian Living Communities, a retirement home community.

“Having Jesus as your spouse and friend is so freeing,” she said. “You sit and meditate and he becomes so much closer.”

Lillis is celebrating the eighth anniversary of her consecration his year.

 

Read more about the Denver Archdiocese’s consecrated virgins in next week’s issue of the Denver Catholic Register.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.