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April 12, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

As she prepares to be consecrated to a life of virginity living in the world, Mary Beth Bracy says she’s both happy and grateful.

“I would say right now I’m elated,” she said. “I’m grateful to God that this is coming to fruition. I’m thankful to all the people who helped me along on the path of discernment.”

To prepare for consecration, Bracy said she’s had an intense period of prayer, including daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration, coursework, reading and retreats.

“I’ve worked with (diocesan vocations coordinator) Sister Mary Eamon Lyng, who has been bishop’s delegate in my vocation,” she said. “She and the diocese provided me with an extensive reading list. Some of it was particular to consecrated virginity, some of it was more general spirituality and Vatican documents. There were also of aspect creating a rule of life so to speak and talking about ongoing formation. I’m grateful to have made an 8-day retreat last August and more recently a three-day retreat. Both were silent Ignatian retreats. I completed certain coursework, including a masters in apologetics from the Magis center, which is accredited through Catholic distance university. Something unique about that program is that it was designed by Father (Robert) Spitzer and promotes the relationship between faith and science, faith and reason... I did courses on the meaning of suffering and other things very relevant to questions people ask today. I did additional coursework – audited through Augustine Institute. One on mystagogy, one on moral/spiritual theology, one on the Creed. It was a deep dive into the Catechism on a graduate level. I enjoyed the coursework immensely. I’m also really blessed to have a wonderful spiritual director. Also, it took a lot of prayer and discernment, with the help of ongoing spiritual direction, as well. Daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, meditation on scripture and the rosary were essential in guiding me to hear the voice of the Beloved. They remain at the heart of my daily life of prayer. Over time, God confirmed that this was the vocation to the consecrated life He was calling me to and, in the words of one of my favorite Scripture verses, Isaiah 30:21, I was convinced that our Lord was saying ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

Bracy noted, though, that the work to cultivate her vocation started much earlier.

“I’m blessed to have come from a family of strong faith,” she said. “My mother is a cradle catholic and has always been fervent in living her faith. When I was little, she would sometimes bring me to daily Mass. It was a wonderful way for me to encounter God from the time I was very young. My godmother was my great-grandmother. When I was little, we lived a block away from her. She’s one of the most saintly and prayerful people I’ve ever encountered. I don’t remember ever seeing her without a rosary in her hands. I’m sure her prayers have helped bring me to this point. On the back of my commemoration card, there’s prayer she used to say regularly. Growing up, I also lived near Our Lady of Victory church and the sisters there. Over the years, I corresponded with some of the sisters, including Sister Anne Theresa Dostie, a Sister of Charity of St. Louis. I also believe her prayers helped me to get to this point. From the time I was really little, I wanted to do something to be involved in the church. I saw the joy and peace especially receiving Holy Communion brought people, and I wanted to grow in faith and grow closer to God.”

As her consecration approaches, Bracy said she’s preparing to live out her vocation and ministry.

“I think sometimes people are expecting that my life will look like something different after consecration,” she said. “The principal thing about consecrated virginity is that you’re getting married, becoming a spouse of Christ. It’s like asking someone who’s about to get married how their life will be different. Hopefully, they want to be the best spouse they can be. The heart of this vocation is prayer and cultivating that relationship with Christ, and praying for the people of the local church, the diocese, the nation and the world.”

Consecrated virgins are “in the world,” and support themselves through employment.

“Sometimes consecrated virgins work in Church jobs,” Bracy said. “But there are many who work in secular professions. I know consecrated virgins who are teachers and healthcare workers. I met one who is a firefighter. It’s about bringing the vocation and love for God to the world and using your talents for Him.”

While she previously worked as an educator, Bracy has been working as a writer for a Catholic publishing company, work she plans to continue after her consecration.

“And I’ll still help in other ways in my parish and in the diocese,” she said.

In terms of the consecration Mass, which is open to the public, Bracy said, “it has been called one of the most beautiful rites in the Church.”

“People may do a double take,” she said. “There are aspects that make you think you’re at a wedding. The candidate is wearing a wedding dress. There’s a ring and a veil. During the rite, there are also parts that will remind people of a priestly ordination.”

During the liturgy, the individual being consecrated is given three insignia, a veil, a ring and the Liturgy of the Hours.

“The Liturgy of the Hours is the principle prayer (of a consecrated virgin),” Bracy explained. “This is the official prayer of the Church that priests as well as some religious and laity pray daily. It consists of Psalms, scripture readings, selections from the saints, prayers, and hymns which are offered at certain times daily to help us ‘sanctify the day’ and intercede for others.”

The consecration will be held at 11:15 a.m. on April 16, Divine Mercy Sunday, at St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh.

“I’m grateful to our bishop, to all the wonderful people in the diocese, to Father (Kevin) McEwan for hosting the consecration at our parish,” she said. “It’s usually held in the cathedral, but we thought holding it at St. Peter’s would make it easier for people from the parish to attend. Father Bryan Stitt and the Department of Worship have gone above and beyond. Sister Eamon and others have been great sources of support and prayer.”

Bracy said she’s looking forward to beginning this next phase of her life as a bride of Christ.

“Consecrated Virgins are members of the Order of Virgins (Ordo Virginum),” she said. “When the bishop consecrates her virginity, a virgin becomes a sacred person. Her life is in service to the diocesan Church, lived fully in the world, individually, with the spiritual assistance of her diocesan bishop. (Consecrated virgins) are called to imitate our Lady, the first consecrated virgin. By living out her vocation, a consecrated virgin is called to be a witness of the love we will experience in Heaven and a spiritual mother to souls.

“I’m very grateful to God.”

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