Bishop Kemme to consecrate Cathedral parishioner a ‘bride of Christ’

Aubrey Coulter sits in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita where she will be consecrated to a life of virginity. (Advance photo)

Want to attend the consecration? Aubrey Coulter will be consecrated to a life of virginity by Bishop Carl A. Kemme at a 5:15 p.m. Mass on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The faithful are invited to the Mass. The date is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation.

The more Aubrey Coulter learned about consecrated virginity, the more she felt drawn to it.

“I had been discerning religious life for a while but it never felt right,” she said.

Coulter, the sister of Fr. Isaac Coulter, a priest of the diocese, said she first learned about the vocation in 2019.

“I didn’t know what it was, but I felt it was important and I felt this light in my soul and consolation. At that point, I started living how I felt a consecrated virgin would live, though I didn’t know what that meant.”

Drawn by the Holy Spirit

As she learned more about the vocation – and with the counsel of a priest, she said she felt even more drawn to it.

“Consecrated virginity is a form of consecrated life,” she said. “It’s an ancient form of consecrated life. It was present in the early church. There were virgins who resolved to remain virgins for the rest of their lives out of love for Christ and for the sake of the kingdom.”

There were also widows in the early church, she said, who after their husbands died resolved to remain chaste for Christ.

Consecrated virginity in early church

Consecrated virginity predates religious life, Coulter said, adding that virgins in the early church were consecrated during a special liturgy where the Holy Spirit was called upon to give them the grace to live their vows as virgins.

“There began to be fewer consecrated virgins in the church as women were urged to have a more communal life as nuns or sisters, she said.”

However, after Vatican II the rite to consecrate a virgin was restored. And now there are a couple of thousand consecrated virgins around the world

A bride of Christ

A consecrated virgin is given the title of Bride of Christ, Coulter said, and shares that title with the church. “She’s representing the church like a priest represents Christ to us. He’s like the shepherd who gives us the sacraments – like the Eucharist – and proclaims the Word.”

The virgin represents the church with a pure, Christ-like love, she said.

As a sign of her relationship with Christ, a woman during a consecration is veiled and receives a wedding band from the bishop. He also gives her the liturgy of the hours.

Praying the prayer of the church

“She is meant to pray the liturgy of the hours for the church and with the church,” she said.

As part of her formation, Coulter has been meeting with a consecrated virgin and has spent time with three consecrated virgins around the country to learn more about the vocation.

“At first I was kind of hesitant because you’re living their life with them – and I didn’t know them beforehand. Each consecrated virgin is living it a little differently,” she said. “It was very fruitful and you develop a sisterhood with them.”

Advice from an advisor

Each consecrated virgin discerns how to live her life, Coulter said, with the help of a spiritual advisor and her delegate.

In August she was able to attend the consecration of a virgin in Kansas City and talk to other consecrated virgins. “Even though I don’t know them personally, it’s like you feel something with them. So it kind of firms the call, I think, in a way.”

Coulter, who is scheduled to be consecrated on Dec. 8, said she won’t have a community and nothing will necessarily change in her life but she will subsequently have a special bond with Christ and with the diocese.

Living perpetual virginity

“The consecration is meant to give you the grace to live out this perpetual virginity that you’re living. But I think I’m just looking forward to being mystically espoused to Christ,”

Externally nothing will change, she said, but I’ll have a ring. “I’ll still be called Aubrey and I’ll wear the same clothes and do what I’m doing now but internally this change has happened.”

Coulter worked for six years as a civil engineer but is now working part-time as a janitor for the Church of the Resurrection and as a sacristan for the Cathedral.