Jessica Hayes has been named advisor for consecrated vocations in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. In the role, she will assist the diocese and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in the discernment and formation of women seeking a consecrated vocation.
A graduate of Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, Hayes is a theology teacher at her alma mater and dedicated her own life in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity on Aug. 15, 2015.
She said she often is asked what the difference is between her vocation and that of a religious sister: She explains that both are called to live in a spiritual marriage with the Lord, but consecrated virgins do not live in community within a specific religious order, sharing their charism and apostolate.
While answering a calling to consecrated virginity carries with it a closing of the path to the sacrament of marriage and the creation of her own family, Hayes explained that the vocation is actually an expansion of these natural desires by being espoused to Christ and gaining spiritual motherhood. “An espousal to Jesus Christ is a marriage that endures even in heaven, and spiritual motherhood means an ever-expanding family; welcoming and nurturing the spiritual lives of many. Each woman has to discern whether or not she finds joy in entering as far as possible into the life of any one of these consecrated states.”
One of the many blessings that has come from her public profession is an increase in young women seeking assistance in their discernment. Several have been students at Bishop Dwenger, and Hayes has also accepted referrals from Father Andrew Budzinski, vocations director for the diocese, and other priests, sisters in religious communities and teachers.
“There’s no one better for this responsibility than Jessica,” said Father Budzinski. “She is a truly holy woman; authentic, sincere, charitable.”
Hayes has found that young women working to discern their vocation often want immediate answers to their questions about God’s calling for them. While everyone is called to a personal relationship with Christ, she said, she tells them that there really is no shortcut. She advises that they immerse themselves in the Gospels and the sacramental life of the Church, and that they note the response of their hearts to these things.
“If she finds her joy in prayer, in being with Jesus, and seeks to know Him through continued study of the faith and service to her parish community, the Lord may reveal that her love and the openness of her life to others is to be given to Him in formal consecration as His bride.”
When a woman reaches out to her for guidance, Hayes places a special emphasis on praying “lectio divina” with the Gospels and being with the Lord in eucharistic adoration. The Latin phrase “lectio divina” is translated as “divine reading” and is a method of praying with Scriptures that includes the monastic practice of reading; reflection or meditation; contemplation; and lastly, prayer.
She points out to the women she advises that the Lord speaks in the way He moves a woman’s heart in her daily life, but that silence and personal prayer help make one more attentive to His Spirit alive in her — and better prepared to hear His call.
As a vocation becomes clearer to a woman, if that vocation is to a religious order Hayes will help connect her with communities whose charisms attract her. Once she finds the order she wants to seriously contemplate joining, Hayes works with the order’s vocation director on the woman’s behalf. Women who discern a call to consecrated virginity lived in the world continue their formation with Hayes and with Bishop Rhoades.
“I want to help women in those first steps to discernment,” Hayes said. “Most need support and guidance between where they are and a specific community.”
Women looking to discuss discernment of a vocation to a life of consecrated virginity or a religious order can contact Hayes at [email protected]
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