August 4, 2015 // Local

Jessica Hayes to dedicate her life to God and Church

Jessica Hayes

By Kay Cozad

FORT WAYNE — For Jessica Hayes, what began a few years ago as a desire to find God’s will in her life has culminated in a unique religious vocation. Hayes will dedicate her life to Christ in a special ceremony, the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, on Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, making her the sole consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Hayes, a theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, has long felt a yearning to give herself more fully to the Church, and through the process of spiritual direction she began to consider the religious life, visiting two religious congregations. Hayes says, though she appreciates the beauty of that life, she felt it was not where she was being called.

It was while attending the funeral of Sister Jane Carew, a consecrated virgin herself, that Hayes felt God’s calling on her life becoming clearer. It was there that she first learned of the life of a consecrated virgin, and after some time in discernment and spiritual guidance she says, “It seemed that all the things I wanted most were in that way of life.”

Hayes describes a consecrated virgin as someone who has a vocation to a spousal intimacy with Christ, but lives in the midst of the world. “My community,” says Hayes, “is among the laity. My parish, my family, my students — that’s my community.”

In this vocation Hayes will continue to support herself through her teaching career, live in her own home, keep her name, wear regular street clothes and interact within the community.

Becoming a consecrated virgin is primarily a spiritual change, she says. In addition to her daily prayer life, Hayes will be of service to others and her parish on behalf of the diocese. How she will serve will be discerned with the bishop, who is her superior.

Services to the faith community Hayes has provided in the past include teaching classes for the Poor Clare Sisters and assisting with St. Vincent de Paul Parish Lifeteen program. Her involvement at St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, her home parish, include serving as choir member, RCIA instructor and teaching in different capacities.

At Bishop Dwenger, Hayes teaches theology and a class on the dignity of women as well as being involved with the Saints for Life pro-life student group. She was cross-country and track coach for many years.

A self professed “later in life vocation” Hayes says, “This will be my final and only vows, so a lot of the preparation in the spiritual life was done on my own leading up to that point.” That preparation included “an awful lot of silence and solitude in my prayer life. I already had a good foundation for the spiritual life but what I hadn’t had up to that point were good tools for discerning my vocation.”

She has found that for women, unless actively pursuing a religious order, there is no specific direction for those interested in a religious vocation. She plans to address that void especially in her classes in hopes of facilitating change in the future.

Taking the time to investigate all the states in life available to her — religious life, married life, singlehood — and discerning the positives and subjective negatives brought her to an awareness of her call. “Being able to articulate where I was happiest and discerning what God was asking of me by those desires of my heart,” she says.

This unique vocation is of great value to the Church, says Hayes. “A consecrated virgin is the image of the Church. She is one that is receiving all that she is from Christ — her very identity. It’s a sign that all of us are called to be open to the will of God.”

The Mass with the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, celebrated By Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in parts is a reflection of an ordination, Hayes says, including the calling of the candidate, liturgy of the Word, prostration for the litany of saints, statement of intentions and the prayer of consecration. Hayes will be adorned in a wedding dress as a bride of Christ. She will be presented with a veil, a ring and the Liturgy of the Hours and take a vow of lifelong virginity.

“I’m giving myself in a way that I can’t take back. It’s total, it’s complete, it’s a public confession, this is what my role is in the Church,” she says. Several supportive Women’s Dignity students will be involved in the ceremony with two reading, four taking up the gifts and six will be handing out programs.

Following her consecration the cadence of her prayer life will include the liturgy of the hours, daily Mass and recitation of the rosary. “It’s being committed to the prayers of the Church,” she says, adding she prays daily morning, evening and night prayers.

This life of consecrated virginity is not like that of a single woman. She will no longer do whatever she wants with her time, money and freedom, but rather as someone married to Christ. All the decisions about life and all that she has and is are always considered in the life of Christ.

Hayes is humbled and grateful for the opportunity to live out God’s call on her life as a consecrated virgin and says, “My hope is for greater faithfulness in living the Christian life and surrendering each day my will to God’s will. And with that holiness the ability then to love as Christ loves.”

“It’s a pretty simple life,” says Hayes joyfully, adding, “it’s very happy, but pretty simple.”


Hayes to be
consecrated to a
life of virginity

All are invited to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne for a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15 — the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the Mass, Jessica Hayes, a theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, will be officially consecrated to a life of virginity.

A consecrated virgin is called to a spousal union with Christ lived in the midst of the world. She takes a lifelong vow of virginity for the purpose of giving herself more fully to Jesus through a life of prayer. She continues to live and work among the lay faithful, and discerns her specific service to the Church with her local bishop.

Please come to celebrate the Assumption and participate in this extraordinary rite.

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