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CURRENT ISSUE:  February 7, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA
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Walk for Life draws a youthful crowd
Parishes plan activites for Black History Month
Q&A with parishioner
dedicating life to God

At the 10 a.m. Mass Feb. 20, Elizabeth Lam will make a rare pledge, becoming a consecrated virgin living in the world, dedicating her life to service to God and the Church.
Elizabeth Lam
José luis aguirre photo

A consecrated virgin is not a member of a religious order. And unlike baptisms, marriages and other sacraments in a diocese, there is no official reporting of consecrations. It is known that this will be the first such consecration at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, with Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone presiding.

Lam, a parishioner at St. Edward Church in Newark, is one of a very small group. There are approximately 200 consecrated virgins in the United States, according to Judith Stegman, president of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. Most of them live in the Midwest and East, says Stegman, who lives in Michigan. There have been few consecrations on the West Coast. There are two in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, she said.

According to the association, a laywoman aspiring to the consecration of a virgin must be able to support herself by work or pension or independent means and has provided financially for her medical care.
Lam is a community service officer at a local police department and a certified nurse assistant at a county hospital.

Although the consecration of a Virgin is one of the oldest sacramentals in the Church, the rite was restored in 1970 as a result of Vatican II.

According to Canon 604 §1: “The order of virgins is also to be added to these forms of consecrated life. Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.”

As she prepared for the upcoming event, Lam answered a few questions about her preparation, her life and her future.

How did you learn there is a modern-day consecrated virgin?

It was during my live-in experience with the Carthusian nuns in Italy. I was trying to discern what God wanted me to do and came to the conclusion that He simply wanted me to seek to have my “private promise” ratified through the local ordinary and remain in the world. Upon my return to the States, I did some research to see how feasible this would be, and that is how I discovered the Consecration of a Virgin Living in the World in accord with Canon 604.

How did you discern that you were being called to life as a Consecrated Virgin?

Prayer and Spiritual Direction.

What have been the steps in the process? How many years has it taken?

The process of becoming a Consecrated Virgin depends upon the Bishop of the Diocese. I would refer anyone interested in the vocation to the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins as they have a thorough explanation of the vocation along with an outline of the preparation process.

Who will accompany you to the ceremony on Feb. 20?

I will probably go to the Cathedral alone that morning; however some of my family and friends will meet me at the Mass.

What symbols will be part of the ceremony?

Usually the insignia for the Consecration include a veil, a ring and the book of the Liturgy of the Hours. According to the book of rites, the veil is optional.

Can you tell us a little about your background: your education and what you do for a living?

I went to public school and attended catechism at my parish when I was growing up. Currently I am employed as a Community Service Officer at a local police department; and as a Certified Nurse Assistant at a County Hospital.

What will you do in your life as a consecrated virgin?

Only time will tell. Akin to how you give yourself completely to your spouse when you are married, I will be given over entirely to God and His Church. Similar to other forms of consecrated life, I will be happily bound to participate in the prayer of the Church (the Liturgy of the Hours).

During the Consecration, the bishop instructs the virgin to imitate the Mother of God, frequent the Sacraments, practice self-denial, study the Scriptures, participate in acts of mercy, love everyone, help the poor, care for the weak, teach the ignorant, protect the young, minster to the old, and to bring strength and comfort to widows and to all in adversity. The virgin is further instructed to pray in a special way for the spread of the Christian faith, for the unity of Christians, the welfare of the married, and the conversion of sinners.

It will be my goal in life to follow these instructions.

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