Dayton woman becomes first consecrated virgin in archdiocese
June 25, 2012
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
Sharon Borgert publicly responded to God’s call for her during a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains 0n May 31, the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr presided as Borgert, a member of Emmanuel Parish in Dayton, became the first consecrated virgin in the archdiocese.
While relatively unknown to today’s Catholics, the consecration of a virgin is one of the oldest sacramentals in the Catholic Church, explained Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Marilyn Kerber, director of the archdiocesan Office of Religious, who assisted Borgert as she prepared to receive the rite. The restored Rite for the Consecration of a Virgin Living in the World was promulgated on May 31, 1970.
The website for the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins (USACV), explains the unique call of a consecrated virgin: “As a consecrated person, she lives in the world; she does not flee the world. Her life is a public witness in the church and in society. By her very life of virginity, she is witnessing her total love for her spouse, Jesus Christ.”
The virgin is consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop. She prays the Divine Office, attends Mass daily, if possible, and spends time in private prayer. Supporting herself by earning her own living, the consecrated virgin is not obligated to take on any particular ministry. Usually, consecrated virgins in the United States volunteer their time in their local parish, diocese or church-sponsored organization. The consecrated virgin does not wear a habit or veil, use the title “Sister” or write OCV after her name.
Borgert, who was raised in Beavercreek and attended Ascension School in Kettering, Alter High School, the former St. Joseph Commercial School and the University of Dayton, describes her vocation as a “gift.” She was engaged once in her late 20s, but ended the relationship firm in the belief that “it wasn’t meant to be and that God had other plans for me.”
After a career working in administrative positions for various companies, it was a 2007 article in The Catholic Telegraph about consecrated virgins that led Borgert to answer God’s call. She petitioned now retired Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk who accepted her as a candidate in the formation process, which involved prayer, intensive study and regular meetings with a spiritual director. Precious Blood Sister Mary Garke, former director of the archdiocesan Office of Religious, and Sister Marilyn, worked closely with Borgert during formation. She expressed her gratitude for their prayers and encouragement, as well as those of Precious Blood Father Angelo Anthony, pastor of Emmanuel Church, her fellow parishioners, members of her Marian prayer group, and the USACV.
After Archbishop Schnurr accepted Borgert as a candidate for consecration, plans for the rite moved forward. During his homily at the Mass at which Borgert was consecrated, the archbishop spoke of both the states of life of marriage and virginity, saying, “Each is perfect for the person who is called to it. Both virginity and married life are God-given vocations, and those who are faithful to their vocation achieve holiness. Virginity, however, is a state of life that perhaps could be called more advanced in the sense that it more clearly approximates the definitive state toward which we are all journeying: life as it is lived in the kingdom of heaven.”
After the homily, Borgert was called forward to the sanctuary, accompanied by two other consecrated virgins, and questioned by the archbishop as to whether she was “resolved to accept solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
“I am,” she responded.
As part of the rite, Borgert also received a ring from the archbishop, marking her as a bride of Christ, along with the book of the liturgy of the hours. As the Mass concluded, Archbishop Schnurr bestowed a solemn blessing on Borgert as he and the congregation offered their prayers for her vocation.
Borgert’s consecration is “significant for our archdiocese in that she reflects in our midst yet another of the ways in which women are called to the service of God’s people in the church and world,” Sister Marilyn said. “Sharon, a woman with an already lively faith and devotion to prayer, now dedicates herself fully to Christ and the service of her sisters and brothers, especially through prayer for the church of the archdiocese, its priests and people and beyond.”
Judith Stegman, president of the USACV and close to celebrating 20 years as a consecrated virgin, said, “Sharon has a deeply sensitive spirit and I think anyone will find her to be a friend and witness to Christ’s love. It was a great honor to be present at the Mass with her and experience the depth of her gratitude to God for allowing her the opportunity to be consecrated.”
Stegman acknowledged that there is lack of understanding about their vocation, but has mostly experienced a deep respect for it. “The question of calling oneself a virgin in our society does raise a challenge,” she said, “Our culture is so sex crazed, but part of our call is to witness to a value that is held so deeply in our Catholic faith.”
“I do not know why I was chosen by the Almighty Father to become the bride of Christ,” Borgert said. “There is nothing special about me, but what a gift. I feel so grateful and so very well blessed, and all I want to do is please Jesus and make Him happy, as His bride. I know that God will use me in His way, for he has led me for all of my 61 years.”