From the Post-Gazette:
Sheila Ryan said she sensed she has had an unusual call from God from the time of her upbringing in McKeesport. It wasn’t until recently, though, that she learned the Catholic Church had a name for it and an official liturgy to formalize it. Early Sunday morning at St. Richard Church in Richland, the retired school teacher and administrator became the first woman in the Diocese of Pittsburgh to receive the Rite of Consecration of a Virgin Living in the World. With Bishop David Zubik presiding at the ceremony, she wore a white dress and received a ring and veil to symbolize her marriage to Christ alone. She also received an edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, a set of daily prayers she has committed to offering. “I knew as a teenager that I was not called to the married state,” said Ms. Ryan, who now lives in Valencia and is active at St. Richard. “It’s listening to God and being open to his workings of grace within us. Nobody would seek this life, which is counter-cultural, unless it were a gift from God. And I consider it a gift.” While exact numbers are not available, best estimates are that there are about 230 consecrated virgins in the United States and about 3,500 worldwide, said Judith Stegman of Michigan, president of the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins. “We have to provide as many opportunities as we can to help people on their road to holiness,” said Bishop Zubik. “There’s not many people called to it,” he added, but for those who are, “it’s a legitimate option in the church.”
For those curious about this calling (which is still somewhat rare and mysterious to people), there is a United States Association of Consecrated Virgins, which offers this:
The consecrated virgin lives in full communion with the Church through her spiritual bond with her Bishop, the representative of Jesus Christ in her diocese; and she shares in the concerns of her diocese through their on-going communication. The consecrated virgin is responsible to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. She receives the sacraments regularly and is faithful to private prayer. She keeps as a special focus of her prayer the intentions of her Bishop and clergy and the needs of her diocese. Consecrated virginity is a distinct form of consecrated life in the Church. Therefore, while it is related to other forms of consecrated life, it is not identical to any of them. The consecrated virgin living in the world, as expressed in Canon 604, is irrevocably “consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan bishop consecrates [her] according to the approved liturgical rite.” The consecrated virgin understands the positive value of living for the Lord in the midst of the world. She does not wear a habit or veil, nor does she use the title “Sister.” While she may associate with other consecrated virgins for friendship and mutual encouragement, she lives her vocation individually. She provides completely for her own material needs, including medical care and retirement resources, through employment, pension, or other means. At no time is her diocese financially responsible for her. Not restricted to a particular apostolate, she is free to choose her own way of serving the church according to her natural and spiritual gifts. Consecrated virgins usually offer their free time, as they are able, to their parish, diocese, or Church-sponsored association. Some volunteer their time also in civic responsibilities.