Champaign woman diocese’s 5th consecrated to Order of Virgins

Photo Caption: Minette Sternke wears a wedding dress for the June 20 Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria during which she was consecrated to the Order of Virgins by Bishop Jenky.

By: By Jennifer Willems

When Minette Sternke donned a beautiful white wedding dress and walked down the aisle of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on June 20, she was absolutely certain she would be giving herself to a spouse chosen just for her by God.

It was his Son.

During the Mass that followed her long walk, Sternke was consecrated to the Order of Virgins by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC. She becomes the fifth woman in the Diocese of Peoria to make the commitment to consecrated virginity lived in the world. (See related story below.)

So certain was she that she was following God’s plan for her life that she bought her wedding dress two years ago and her ring, modeled after her mother’s wedding band, last year.

“I dated for awhile — nothing serious, but I dated. It got to the point where I was comparing the men I was dating to Jesus, which was really not fair to either one,” Sternke told The Catholic Post. “They were never going to be able to compare to Jesus and it’s not fair to ask Jesus to come down to the level of men. That was kind of a clue.”

That’s when she told God, “If you want me to get married you’re going to have to send me the guy.”

Feeling called to a deeper relationship with God, she knew she wasn’t called to the community life of a woman religious. Her mother had been sending her information on the vocation to consecrated virginity for several years and when a friend in Madison, Wisconsin, was consecrated in 2011, Sternke was present.

“I have never seen a woman so full of joy on the day of her wedding,” she said. “I thought, ‘I want that.'”

‘NUDGED’ BY GOD
Still relatively rare and not very well understood, the vocation to consecrated virginity has been around since the earliest days of the church. Sternke said the Blessed Mother is considered by many to be the first consecrated virgin and pointed to the Annunciation as the moment it happened.

“You can read in the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels where women were part of the group that was following Jesus and providing for them out of their own means. Those may have been consecrated virgins,” she explained. “We know that from 200 on there were women . . . who were martyrs and virgins who made the decision to give themselves to God.”

The vocation was revived during the Second Vatican Council and women started to be consecrated again in the early 1970s, according to Sternke.

Consecrated virgins are not supported by the diocese, but are responsible for their own support, living arrangements and health care. Sternke, for example, shares a house in Champaign with her twin sister Marietta Coufal, and has worked as an examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for 26 years.

They do not have any prescribed ministries, although consecrated virgins pray for the church and the diocese and often are active volunteers in their parishes. Sternke, who is deaf, is coordinator of deaf ministry at St. Patrick Parish in Urbana and is working toward a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida.

After confirming her vocation by attending a retreat through the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins in 2012, she wrote to Bishop Jenky. He gave permission for her to proceed with formation and Sternke started meeting monthly with Father John Cyr last October.

Sternke did not take vows, but rather asked Bishop Jenky to “receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God’s help, I here profess before you and God’s holy people.” She received a wedding veil and a ring as signs of her consecration and was given a copy of the Liturgy of the Hours so that she might “pray without ceasing for the salvation of the whole world.”

“I could live as a single person and be quite happy, but I wouldn’t be fulfilled,” she said in the days before her consecration. “To me, this is the joining of my single vocation with the blessing of God and creating something entirely new out of that. God keeps nudging me closer and closer to relationship with him . . . and the closer I get, the more fulfilling it is.”

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FOUR OTHER CONSECRATED VIRGINS IN THE DIOCESE OF PEORIA

According to information provided by the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins, there are 3,000 women living a life of consecrated virginity in as many as 42 countries. It is estimated that more than 215 are located in the United States, including the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Dioceses of Peoria, Rockford and Springfield in Illinois.

In addition to Minette Sternke, there are four consecrated virgins in the Diocese of Peoria.

JULIE ENZENBERGER
Consecrated on Aug. 12, 2006, by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, Enzenberger is a member of and volunteer for the “Heart of Peoria Catholic Community,” which includes St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sacred Heart, St. Joseph and St. Bernard in downtown Peoria. She works for the diocesan Office of Stewardship and the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, maintains the Catholic Diocese of Peoria (CDOP) website and is involved in social media efforts.

LINDA FRICKEY
A teacher by profession with 35 years of experience, Frickey also was consecrated on Aug. 12, 2006, by Bishop Jenky. She lives in Pontiac and is a member of St. Mary Parish, where she has served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, youth retreat leader and perpetual adoration coordinator.

JERI GERDING
Gerding lives in Peru and is a member of St. Valentine Parish there. She serves as a pastoral care minister at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley. Bishop Jenky consecrated her to the Order of Virgins on May 2, 2010.

MARY KAY PANGRCIC
Consecrated by Bishop (now Archbishop) John J. Myers on May 13, 2001, Pangrcic lives in LaSalle and is a member of St. Hyacinth Parish. She is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and sacristan there, visits the sick and helps persons in need. She is employed as an auditor for JC Whitney.

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