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Church Seeing a Rediscovery of Consecrated Virginity

Consecrated virginity a form of consecrated life that is seeing much growth

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On Tuesday, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and the World Day of Consecrated Life, the Church wrapped up a special year dedicated to consecrated men and women.
Among those attending the closing events were consecrated virgins.
The Order of the consecrated virgins is a reality that reached the number of 4,000 consecrated virgins in the world in 2015 while it was composed by no more than a few women in 1970, year of the publication of the decree Ordo consecrationis virginum. Today, the consecrated virgins, who belong to the local Churches, are present in 78 nations, distributed on the five continents: Europe: 67%, the Americas: 27%, Africa: 4%, Asia: 1%, and Oceania: slightly less than 1%. Since 1970, the development of the Order of consecrated virgins has been continuous.
These findings are the result of a study and analysis of the answers to the questionaires that the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life sent to the 114 episcopal conferences in September 2015.
The Order of consecrated virgins can be seen today in 5 different ways: (1) it is an aid to the spiritual growth of consecrated virgins by nurturing their faithful belonging to Christ; (2) it has a strong bond with the local Church; (3) it is an answer to the needs of evangelization in Countries of mission and of a new evangelization in Countries of ancient Christian tradition influenced by secularization; (4) it answers to present challenges of the Church in dialogue with the world; and, finally, (5) it has the ability to be rooted in all cultures of the world.
Moreover, the vocation of consecrated virgins has become an answer at the pastoral level. In Countries of ancient Christian tradition, consecrated virgins’ life and work, in other words their testimony, are a reply to secularization, to the necessity of the Church to get close to unbelievers there where the ordinary life of the majority develops. In countries where the Church suffers, the presence of the Order of consecrated virgins is possible because the structure of the Order makes a discrete pastoral activity possible, but in no case less effective. In Countries of mission, consecrated virgins can evangelize not only in structures run by the ecclesiastics but also in those run by the civil society.
Three words characterize this form of rediscovered vocation: “modernity, catholicity, and growth.” At the same time, consecrated virgins encounter three challenges in their vocation: learning more about their own vocation while introducing other people to the Christian vocation; instructing both people who are already consecrated and people who are pursuing/undergoing a verification of their vocation; and, better coordinating the family of the Order of consecrated virgins which is universal and at the same time rooted in local Churches.

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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