She is the second woman in the Archdiocese of Hartford to be consecrated to perpetual virginity with an ancient rite restored in 1970 (Canon 604) after Vatican II.
Miss Winiarski, who was dressed as a bride, was presented with a veil, a ring and a book of the Liturgy of the Hours from Archbishop Blair as symbols of her life committed to Christ.
“The church recognizes that God has called Sophia to be more closely united to him” as a sign of the mission of the Church, said Archbishop Blair.
“The life you seek to follow has its source in heaven itself,” he said. “Your life is given over to the service of the church.”
Noting that Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy beginning in December, he told Miss Winiarski, “You are no less than an apostle of divine love in the church and in the world.”
The Mass was concelebrated by 10 priests, with two deacons and more than 100 family members and friends participating in the celebration.
“It’s a call, a vocation; and once I heard the call, I knew this was where God was calling me,” said Miss Winiarski. “I believe it will deepen my relationship with the Lord.”
To discern and prepare for the consecration, Miss Winiarski worked with Sister Mariette J. Moan, of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, archdiocesan vicar for religious.
“She has been very, very sincere and enthusiastic about her vocation,” said Sister Mariette. “She is a very prayerful woman and by profession is a nurse.”
Sister Mariette explained that consecrated virgins are expected to offer service to the archdiocese without remuneration and be responsible for their own finances, as well as pray the Liturgy of the Hours, receive the sacraments regularly, maintain a life of private prayer and pray for the archbishop and for the clergy of the archdiocese.
To fulfill those requirements, Miss Winiarski will continue to work as a nurse on the Malta House of Care mobile medical clinic and serve as a prayer team member for the archdiocesan Charismatic Office. She is also bound to meet on a yearly basis with the archbishop. The consecration is irrevocable.
Candidates for perpetual virginity are women living in the world who have never married or lived in open violation of chastity; and who want to dedicate themselves to a life of chastity in the service of the church and of her neighbors. They are required to petition their bishop to receive the consecration.
It is estimated that there are 215 consecrated virgins in the United States and roughly 3,000 worldwide. Information is available from the Association of Consecrated Virgins (www.consecratedvirgins.org) in Lansing, Mich.
To celebrate the importance of the religious vocation, Pope Francis declared a Year for Consecrated Life that will conclude Feb. 2, 2016.
Notably, the vocation of consecrated virginity is not a clerical or lay state of life, but a distinct form of consecrated life in the church.
In Vita Consecrata, the 1996 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Saint John Paul II wrote about other forms of consecrated life that include consecrated widows, monastic life in the East and in the West, contemplative religious, apostolic institutes, diocesan hermits, secular institutes and societies of apostolic life.
According to Sister Mariette, there are several variations on how the vocation to consecrated life is carried out, both individually and communally.
The two most well-known forms of living out consecrated life for religious sisters and brothers, as well as priests who are members of religious orders, are the active (also known as the apostolic) life for those involved in the works of the church (education, health care, prison ministry, in parishes, etc.); and the contemplative life for those who spend a major portion of their vocation in prayer. In the latter, women are called nuns and men are called monks.
Two other forms of consecrated life, she said, are secular institutes, made up of people who share an apostolate; and societies of apostolic life such as the Daughters of Charity, Maryknoll, Sulpicians and Vincentians. There are no secular institutes in the archdiocese, she said; however, examples in other dioceses are the Company of St. Ursula and the Dom Bosco Volunteers.
In addition, there are those who are individually consecrated, such as consecrated virgins and hermits (who separate themselves from the world), and in some areas, consecrated widows, who are consecrated by a diocesan bishop.