The bride’s name is Jessica Hayes, the groom is Jesus Christ. Saturday morning, she became the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese’s first consecrated virgin in 25 years.
It’s not the wedding day Hayes envisioned for herself as a little girl. Sure it came with the same struggles any bride-to-be would have, like finding the perfect dress.
“I’ve seen so many wedding dresses over the years that I think I’ve probably changed my mind very many times. 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,” Hayes said.
For the 38-year-old theology teacher from Bishop Dwenger High School, this commitment represents years of prayer and soul-searching.
“I had been praying about it for years, trying to seek God’s will for my life and not really finding it in any of the paths that I sought before. It was really a consideration of which things brought me the most joy and where my greatest happiness was. It seemed that all of those loves converged on this one thing where I could still be living in the world and be a part of the lives of my students and be studying and teaching and involved in a parish life, but I could also give myself more completely by making this total commitment of my life to serve the church in whatever capacity is needed and whatever capacity my own gifts are available for,” Hayes said.
A consecrated virgin is a fairly rare occurrence in the Catholic church. Saturday’s ceremony makes Hayes the only one in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. There are approximately 3,000 around the world and more than 200 in the United States.
As one might expect, the vocation comes with some confusion.
“My students asked if they should call me Mrs. Hayes when I come back to school next week, and no, I’m still Ms. But, I am married to Jesus,” Hayes said.