Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

Woman becomes archdiocese's fifth consecrated virgin

By Kristin Peterson

Twanna Bolling has long felt a call from God. She considered religious life, both contemplative and active, but that was not the perfect fit. Bolling was called to a more unusual vocation—life as a consecrated virgin.

On June 2, Cardinal George celebrated the consecration of Bolling as a Virgin Living in the World at the Monastery of the Holy Cross.

Years ago, Bolling began to discern if she was being called to contemplative religious life. “There was a lot there that made sense and was me,” she said. “But there was enough there that I thought, uh-uh, this isn’t me.”

Bolling did not feel called to live in a community, but she still felt called to live a contemplative life. She became a Benedictine Oblate and began attending Mass at the Benedictine monastery in Bridgeport.

A few years ago, Bolling heard about a nun in Chicago who left her religious order and became a consecrated virgin. In 2004, she went to an information session hosted by the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.

“When I went to the information session, I knew this was it,” she said. “I met the women, and I saw how much that fit me.”

Bolling said the women came from different backgrounds but there was something about them that was the same—something that is hard for Bolling to put into words. “It’s a love thing. It’s a love between me and Jesus,” she said. “I could see that love in them too.”

“This is not a vocation that appeals to the masses,” said Cabrini Sister Joan McGlinchey, vicar for religious in the archdiocese. McGlinchey works with those in the archdiocese who are considering life as a consecrated virgin.

“A lot of [the consecrated virgins] tried a religious community, but still felt a call—a private call to virginity,” McGlinchey said.

There are about 3,000 consecrated virgins in the world and 150 in the United States. In the archdiocese, Bolling will join four others: Francesca Cynthia Riddick, Theresa Drajin, Kerry Hubata and Lourdes Ramirez Valle.

The vocation of consecrated virginity existed in the early church but was abandoned around the 10th century. The vocation was reinstated in 1970, and Pope John Paul II discussed it in his 1996 apostolic exhortation “Vita Consecrata.”

But the vocation is often misunderstood, McGlinchy said. “The bridal imagery can be hard for people to take, even people in the church,” she said.

The Web site for the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins includes an explanation of the bridal analogy: “Today’s consecrated virgin finds that Jesus Christ himself offers to her the intimacy of a spousal relationship, a relationship nourished by attentiveness to prayer.”

Since consecrated virgins are not connected to a religious order, the consecration is received through the bishop of the diocese in a public ceremony.

Consecrated virgins often minister in the church, but this is not a requirement. One of their main roles in the church is to pray the Divine Office. They also attend daily Mass if possible and spend time in personal prayer.

Unlike religious sisters, consecrated virgins live their lives in the world. Bolling works for the city of Chicago.

McGlinchey said the consecrated virgins are called “to be a witness to living ones life outside of a religious community.”

Bolling does not focus a lot on her role as a witness in the world. “I see myself more as a bride,” she said. “This is something that Jesus has asked me to do and I said yes.”

Bolling hopes her commitment will draw her closer to Jesus. “Everything that the Lord leads people to do, he leads them to it to grow closer to him,” she said. “Hopefully, it will lead me closer to him.”