Marion Strishock -- a religion teacher from Mary of Nazareth School -- kneels as Archbishop Wuerl says a Prayer of Consecration over her at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on March 1. She is the only consecrated virgin living in the world in the Archdiocese of Washington.
Marion Strishock -- a religion teacher from Mary of Nazareth School -- kneels as Archbishop Wuerl says a Prayer of Consecration over her at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on March 1. She is the only consecrated virgin living in the world in the Archdiocese of Washington.
Marion Strishock walks at least two large steps ahead of everyone else - when she taught second graders they always scurried behind her trying to catch up, she said.

Her fast paced walk is indicative of the way she lives the rest of her life - always on the go, always positive, and always looking for ways to help people live out their call to holiness. Strishock, the religion coordinator and teacher at Mary of Nazareth School in Darnestown, said her "energy and zeal" is one of the reasons she became a consecrated virgin who lives in the world on March 1 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Strishock is the only consecrated virgin - one of the oldest forms of consecrated life in the Church - in the Archdiocese of Washington.

"I do things at my own pace ... This (becoming a consecrated virgin) gives me the freedom to do things as God calls me to do them," she said. In a religious community, Strishock said she would have to gain approval of her ideas from the community before moving forward - a process that is necessary and good, but not suited to fit her personality and talents.

She said someone told her that when she found her vocation she would "'know it's right because it will fit like a comfortable sneaker." After unsuccessfully looking into joining many religious communities, she stumbled upon consecrated virgins and the vocation finally fit, she said.

Upon walking into one of Strishock's classrooms, the assistant principal, Rosemary Adams, said you can see her personality "bounding out."

Every day, multiple times a day, Strishock shouts out to her students, "Those who hope in God," and in unison they shout back the refrain, "Won't be disappointed." Every school year Strishock picks a small line like this to reflect on with her students. She also encourages students to sing and dance to Christian rock in the classroom, she said.

Strishock said her mission as a consecrated virgin is to "share the light of Christ and my spirituality with students and young people." She added that she wants to be "a witness and example to everyone's call to holiness."

Strishock's vocation to consecrated virginity is very rare, said Franciscan Sister Rebecca Burke, the archdiocesan delegate for consecrated life. Consecrated virgins are not affiliated with a religious community.

Sister Burke said Strishock has lived the life of a consecrated virgin for many years although she was not actually consecrated yet. This has helped her prepare for her vocation, she said. Sister Burke said she does not recommend this vocation for someone in their twenties or thirties because it might be hard to project how to fulfill the vocation over a lifetime, she said. Consecrated virginity is fitted for someone, like Strishock, who is old enough and mature enough to have discerned that they definitely don't have a vocation to marriage or a vocation to the religious life, she said.

Sister Burke said consecrated virgins were very prevalent in the early Church, but over the course of centuries religious communities became dominant. In 1139, the Second Lateran Council abolished the practice of using the rite of consecration for virgins living in the world.

After many efforts to restore the rite, the Second Vatican Council called for a revision and restoration of the rite in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, she said.

"We have always heard the names of early virgins in the Litany of the Saints as well as in the Mass when we pray to, 'Agnes, Cecilia, Agatha, Lucy,'" she said.

Consecrated virgins are solemnly consecrated by the local diocesan bishop, and Strishock was consecrated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl in the basilica's Blessed Sacrament Chapel. During the rite of consecration the archbishop asked Strishock if she was "resolved to persevere to the end of your days in the holy state of virginity and service to God and His Church?" She replied saying, "I am."

The archbishop then presented her with a ring that he said "marks you as a bride of Christ," and the Liturgy of the Hours so she would "pray without ceasing for the salvation of the whole world."

During the homily Archbishop Wuerl said Strishock would be a visible sign of God's kingdom in the world today.

"Consecrated virginity is a visible sign ... make your whole life a reflection of this vocation," he said. He added that Strishock's "joy, your crowning, even here on Earth, will be Christ."

The diocesan bishop grants permission for the virgins to receive this consecration, and determines the way they are to live their vocation.

Archbishop Wuerl actively helped decide on the best formation process for Strishock and any future consecrated virgins, Sister Burke said.

"Archbishop Wuerl was insistent on a solid theological formation process that focused on three things - prayer, the big picture of consecrated life and the vow of consecrated celibacy."

Strishock - who attended Little Flower School in Bethesda and high school at the now-closed Immaculata - said when she was younger she thought she would be married, have a lot of children and maybe even twins.

Instead God asked her to teach "six sets of twins, and a set of triplets," she joked. "He has given me the opportunity to let more children know about Christ than I ever could have as a parent."

The teacher said her relationship with Jesus has become "very personal" over the course of her discernment period.

"He would have come to Earth and died just for me. I have a constant ache in my heart (for Jesus). He is someone you hold a conversation with," she said.

Strishock said there are more than 150 consecrated virgins in the United States. For more information on consecrated virgins go to The United States Association of Consecrated Virgins Web site at www.consecratedvirgins.org .