Teacher becomes ‘Bride of Christ’ as she is consecrated to the Order of Virgins

Christine Pinheiro prostrates herself on the sanctuary floor of St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on Feb. 5 as the Litany of the Saints is sung during the Mass at which she was consecrated to the Order of Virgins. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Wearing a wedding dress as she stood before Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka, Christine Pinheiro resolved to accept consecration as a bride of Christ last Saturday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

A Latin and theology teacher at Peoria Notre Dame, she became the sixth woman in the Diocese of Peoria to be consecrated to the Order of Virgins. This ancient vocation predates the formation of religious communities and was renewed during the Second Vatican Council.

Placing her joined hands between those of Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka, Christine Pinheiro asks him to “receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity.” (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

In his homily, Bishop Tylka described it as a “unique calling of service to the church.”

“Your life as a consecrated virgin is to give witness in the world as the Bride of Christ and as an icon of the church, who is the mystical Bride of Christ,” he said.

As the insignia of her consecration, Pinheiro received a wedding veil and ring during the rite with the instruction to “keep unstained your fidelity to your Bridegroom, and never forget that you are bound to the service of Christ and of his Body, the church.”

Finally, Bishop Tylka presented the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the church, to Pinheiro.

“May the praise of our heavenly Father be always on your lips,” he said. “Pray without ceasing for the salvation of the whole world.”

“It is astonishing to think that Christ the King desires me, and it would take more than a lifetime to understand it,” Pinheiro wrote to her friends in the front of the Mass booklet. “But he desires me for himself, calling me to forget what lies behind and be joined to him in love.”

“SHE’S SO HAPPY”

Pinheiro’s joy was evident in her smile as she posed for photos at the conclusion of Mass. It was an emotion that was shared by her family and friends alike.

Sister Catherine Thomas Brennan, OP, offers a smile and words of congratulations to Christine Pinheiro, the Diocese of Peoria’s newest consecrated virgin. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“I’m just over the moon. I’m so elated — there are hardly words to describe how happy I feel for Christine,” said her mother, Rita Ott-Pinheiro of Oak Brook.

“You can tell she’s so happy with this,” she told The Catholic Post. “All you want for your children is their happiness and well-being, and I can’t deny that this will be happiness and well-being for her.”

“I knew that God was going to do something. It was obvious. So it was just nice when she found what that something was,” said Amy Fotzler of Champaign, a friend since their days at Holy Cross School in Champaign and one of Pinheiro’s attendants.

Taryn Watkins, who was consecrated on Dec. 8, 2019, also served as an attendant and has been meeting with Pinheiro to talk about their shared vocation and its common joys and struggles. She also planned the Holy Hour that took place Feb. 3 and was led by Father Corey Krengiel, chaplain at Peoria Notre Dame.

“I thought how can I support her? How can I uphold this vocation, which is so beautiful? I just thought prayer in front of the Lord was the way to do that,” Watkins said.

“It is a spousal vocation. To be with the Lord in that time of preparation seemed so important,” she explained.

Two other consecrated virgins were present and lifting up Pinheiro in prayer.

“I just pray that she takes all of the joy and all of the experience from today and carries it forward to deepen the relationship she has with Jesus, who is her spouse now,” said Minette Sternke of Champaign, who was consecrated on June 20, 2015. “Today is so overwhelming. Just take that into her and then carry it forward.”

Julie Enzenberger of Peoria, who was consecrated on Aug. 12, 2006, said, “I prayed that Christine falls more and more in love with Jesus every day and that she shows her gratitude for His love by loving others.”

“THE BELOVED OF CHRIST”

In his homily, Bishop Tylka told Pinheiro that the crux of her discipleship and life as a consecrated virgin is “the daily witness of her love for Christ, but much more so, the daily witness of Christ’s love for you.”

Christine Pinheiro and Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka are surrounded by her extended family after the Mass at which she was consecrated to the Order of Virgins on Feb. 5 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“The ways of the world at times seem far from the kingdom of Heaven, but resolute in your own pursuit of holiness you can — through the grace of the Holy Spirit — make the heavenly realm a part of this world darkened by sin,” he said. “The image of the Scriptures reminds us of the wise virgins who go out to meet the Bridegroom with lamps lit – so let the flame of faith radiate from within your life so others may see the Light of Life.”

To nourish her love for God, Bishop Tylka recommended feeding on the body of Christ, strengthening it by self-denial, and building it up by studying Scripture, as well as with untiring prayer and works of mercy.

The bishop also charged her to pray earnestly for the welfare of the married and to remember those who have forgotten God’s goodness so that God’s mercy may forgive. “Never forget that you are given over entirely to the service of the church and of all your brothers and sisters,” he said.

Having renounced marriage for the sake of Christ, “your motherhood will be a motherhood of the Spirit as you do the will of your Father and work with others in the spirit of charity, so that a great family of children may be born, or reborn, to the life of grace,” the bishop told Pinheiro.

“Today, dear Christine, you become the Bride that the Lord desires. Yes, you! May you always give witness to who you really are – the beloved of Christ,” Bishop Tylka said.

Among the priests who concelebrated with Bishop Tylka was Father Joseph Baker, episcopal vicar for consecrated virgins and pastor of St. Ambrose, Milan, and St. Patrick, Andalusia.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on Christine Pinheiro, see the profile in the Jan. 30 issue of The Catholic Post.

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