High school teacher Jessica Hayes, 38, held her unusual wedding at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Indiana
The bride said she changed her mind about her bridal dress many times
‘I really wanted to make sure that I was well-covered in a way that still shows the beauty of a bride,’ she explained
She also wore nude heels and had her shoulder-length hair curled for the special occasion
The huge congregation mainly consisted of strangers
Hayes is one of 230 consecrated virgins in the US who have vowed to never have sex or marry.
You have probably heard of the groom’s name – Jesus Christ. But you are unlikely to have heard of his bride – Indiana high school teacher Jessica Hayes.
The 38-year-old joined an elite band of ‘consecrated virgins’ when she ‘got married’ to the son of God in downtown Fort Wayne at the weekend.
The consecrated virgins are similar to nuns in that they live chaste lives. But they do not live in convents and they are not obliged to take on any particular work for the Catholic Church. However, most volunteer for their local diocese or Church associations.
Hayes, who is a theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, said she decided to become a consecrated virgin after years of prayer and soul-searching.
She says she will continue to live her normal life at home – only now she will not be able to get married to anyone else or to have sex for the rest of her life.
‘My students asked if they should call me Mrs. Hayes when I come back to school next week, and no, I’m still Ms,’ she said.
‘But I am married to Jesus.’
As a consecrated virgin, Hayes may not have ‘knowing and deliberately’ engaged in sexual relations in the past.
‘I think that in some sense, we’re all called to be married. It’s just a matter of discerning how. So, my marriage is to Christ and someone else’s marriage is to their spouse,’ she told WANE.
WHAT ARE CONSECRATED VIRGINS?
Consecrated virgins are Catholic women who choose to remain celibate for their entire lives.
They are different to nuns in that they live out their religious calling outside of a convent.
Unlike nuns, they do not have to take vows of poverty and obedience during their ‘wedding’ ceremony to God. They do, however, wear white and receive a ring and veil to represent their marriage to Christ.
They are not obliged to take on any particular work but they usually volunteer their time to their local diocese or Church associations.
The practice – which died out in the Middle Ages – was revived by Pope Paul VI in 1970. There are currently 3,500 consecrated virgins worldwide, with around 230 in the US.
To become a consecrated virgin, you must be a mature woman who has never had sex – although no physical examinations are carried out to prove if this is the case.
The Church states:
That they (consecrated virgins) have never married or lived in public or open violation of chastity
That by their age, prudence, and universally approved character they give assurance of perseverance in a life of chastity dedicated to the service of the Church and of their neighbor
In other words, widows or women who have lived with a sexual partner (ie, in a ‘highly visible’ state of unchastity) cannot become consecrated virgins.
But women who have been victims of sexual abuse may still be consecrated, since victimhood is not considered to be a violation of chastity or a sin.
Other consecrated virgins in the United States include Julie Pasteur, 66, a lawyer and Former US Army captain from Racine, Wisconsin, and coffee-shop owner Eileen Belongea from Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Saturday’s ceremony was conducted by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He said: ‘It seems most appropriate that Jessica gives herself totally to Jesus, is consecrated to a life of virginity.’
Hundreds of people attended the service – most of whom were strangers to the bride. She said most turned up because they were ‘interested’ – and she was pleased with the turnout.
‘Now that I’ve made a public commitment, that’s really an encouragement to me to live up to that because people know that this is who I am and my life needs to be lived in conformity with that,’ she explained.
‘So, it’s one more step in that direction that others expect this way of life from me and I need to live consistently in my words and actions that love for Jesus.
‘I’m so happy to have had so many witnesses (at the wedding) because there may be others that the Lord is calling in this way that have now heard of this life and can consider it in their prayer.’
Like most brides, Hayes spent a long time worrying about what dress to wear.
Since she would have to lie prostrate on the church’s floor at one point, she figured a long conservative dress would fit the bill.
‘I’ve seen so many wedding dresses over the years that I think I’ve probably changed my mind very many times,’ she told WANE. ‘I had to really consider the appropriateness of the occasion for my dress.
‘I wanted my shoulders to be covered, and I would have to lie prostrate before the altar, so I really wanted to make sure that I was well-covered in a way that still shows the beauty of a bride.’
She chose a pair of nude heels to go with her dress, and wore her shoulder-length hair in loose curls.
She is now one of only 3,500 consecrated virgins around the world and the first consecrated virgin at the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese in 25 years.
During the service of consecration, the virgins must resolve to ‘persevere to the end of their days in the holy state of virginity and in the service of God and his Church’.
They must also accept ‘solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God’.
The service is not literally a marriage. However it uses some of the symbols of marriage, including a dress, a veil and a ring, to make the point that women who become consecrated virgins are pledging to spend their life in the service of God.
Nuns in the past have also been through similar consecration services, wearing in some cases wedding dresses. And for some orders of nuns, members traditionally wear rings on their wedding fingers.