Former Fredonia woman finds her calling as a consecrated virgin
Jenny Johns says she has undergone a spiritual transformation since she was a student at Ozaukee High School.
That kind of dramatic change can happen to a person when they get married, but in the 33-year-old’s case it is a mystical matrimony.
“I consider myself married to Christ,” Johns said in explaining the spiritual calling she has answered as a consecrated virgin.
The title consecrated virgin has an ancient ring to it, and she explains the term dates back to the earliest days of the Christian faith — even before the creation of religious orders.
Rather than being a nun who wears a habit and belongs to a community set apart from the world, the consecrated virgin is described as “living in the world.”
Johns said she has found inspiration from the stories of Catholic martyrs like St. Agnes and St. Lucy, women who gave their lives rather than succumb to carnal temptations out of a deep love of God.
Just don’t think Johns considers herself saintly.
“I am a flawed person, but Christ has chosen me anyway,” Johns said.
She grew up in Fredonia, the daughter of Bob and Kathy Johns.
Johns said she was raised Catholic, but her appearances at St. Rose of Lima Church were largely limited to church feast days like Christmas and Easter.
After graduating from Ozaukee High in 2000, Johns enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and began a time of profound personal discovery.
She gained a deeper appreciation for her Catholic heritage through the campus Newman Center.
“Many of the women around me were focused on careers, getting married and buying houses, but I knew I had a different calling. I wanted to do missionary work,” Johns said.
“I found a sense of being at peace from the people I met at the Newman Center.”
Johns eventually enrolled in a missionary program at John Paul II Catholic Bible School in Alberta, Canada. She began to experience the exhilaration of sharing her faith with others in remote areas of Western Canada.
After returning to Wisconsin, Johns said, her moment of epiphany came while attending Mass in Green Bay.
“It was during the Consecration of the wine and nobody was sitting near me, but I distinctly heard a voice say, ‘Will you be my bride?’ three times,” Johns said.
“Somehow I knew it was the voice of God, but my response was, ‘You don’t want me. I’m not perfect.’”
For the next several years, she searched for a way to answer that mystical calling, visiting various religious communities and even entering a Carmelite monastery in Denmark, Wis.
Johns said she quickly found the contemplative life of a cloistered nun was not for her. Then she learned about the rite of consecrated virgins — a committed spiritual life outside of a religious order.
As she discovered more about the calling, including consulting with Green Bay Bishop David Ricken, Johns said she knew she had found what was missing in her life.
“Being a consecrated virgin means staying simple and quiet to be attentive to God’s voice. The more I found out about the consecrated life, it was as if I could finally start breathing with both lungs,” she said.
Johns formalized the commitment during a Rite of Consecration ceremony in May at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.
During the ceremony, which had many of the trapping of a wedding, she received a veil, ring and book of daily prayers called a breviary.
“When the bishop put his hands on me, it was as if I could feel the breath of God,” Johns said.
Her family and closest friends attended the ceremony and treat it as if it were a traditional wedding. She wore a simple white dress.
“When my dad sees me now, he asks, ‘How’s married life?’ I always say, ‘Out of this world,’” Johns said.
As for promising a life of perpetual virginity, she said, it is not a pledge she has made on a whim.
“I am wedded to Christ. If I were to fall in love with a man, I would be committing adultery against God,” Johns said. “That is just something I could never consider.”
In addition to a life devoted to prayer, Johns works as a sacristan and liturgist at the cathedral in Green Bay.
FORMER FREDONIA RESIDENT Jenny Johns (right) received a blessing from Green Bay Bishop David Ricken during a consecration ceremony last May at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Bradford