A 41-year-old coffee shop owner in Waukesha, Wisconsin, has decided to take vows as a consecrated virgin.
Eileen Belongea learned about this vocation in 1999 while visiting one of her sisters, who is a nun with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in southern Illinois.
"The Lord has given me the grace of virginity," she told the Associated Press. "It is he who has preserved it my whole life, and I offer it back to him. Through God's consecration, through the hands of the bishop, I'll receive the strength and the grace that I will need."
Bolongea owns the Brewers Two Cafe at Meadowbrook Marketplace, as well as two other coffee shops, with her twin sister. She says others find her choice intriguing and want to learn more about it.
"I haven't had anyone who didn't treat it with respect,” she told the AP.
Bolongea is scheduled to take her vows before Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee at her parish, St. Paul Church in Genesee Depot, on Sept. 8. She will make a commitment to lifelong celibacy and chastity before God and the Church.
Her life will not change all that much, however. She will continue to work at the coffee shop, pray and volunteer at her parish. She will wear a simple gold ring as a symbol of her consecration.
Fr. Rev. Al Veik, a Capuchin priest, who works with applicants as director of the archdiocese's office for consecrated life, said women who are attracted to this vocation do not want to join a religious order and live in a religious community.
Bolongea will be the eighth consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee since Pope Paul VI reinstated the rite in 1970. They include teachers and lawyers.
The United States Association of Consecrated Virgins estimates there are 200 consecrated women in the U.S. and more than 3,000 worldwide.