An open heart led April Bailey to a vocation most have never heard of.
“This is my finally,” she said. “This is what I have been desiring. This is my fulfillment.”
On Aug. 15, Bailey became a consecrated virgin during a Mass at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
A consecrated virgin is a woman who never marries. She dedicates her perpetual virginity to God and becomes a spiritual mother to his children. She is set aside in a special way as a sacred person belonging to Christ.
Bailey shared with The Leaven the journey that brought her to this unique vocation.
Q: Tell us about your discernment process leading up to your consecration.
As with all vocations, my discernment began much earlier than my formation did. Growing up, my parents encouraged my 11 brothers and sisters and I to be open to the vocation God has for us. They encouraged us to pray about our vocation and to learn about the different vocations.
A consecrated virgin living the world is called to pray and serve the Church, and to be a spiritual mother to God’s children.
Before confirmation, I took opportunities that were given to me to learn different things about the church, but I never really felt that it was that important to me.
I was confirmed in 10th grade. It was a very impactful event in my life, and the graces of confirmation led me to decide to go all in finding ways to serve the church and pray. A few months after confirmation, I joined a diocesan retreat team that traveled around the Wichita diocese putting on confirmation retreats for other teenagers and I helped form a diocesan monthly high school praise and worship night. In addition, I started going to adoration at my church at 2 a.m. on Thursday mornings. Yes, as a high school student. And, my senior year I prayed with the Stations of the Cross every day. I felt very fulfilled in this and this love drew me to go to Benedictine College so that I could start to learn more about God and his church.
Q: Were there instances in your life that you think prepared you for this calling?
I fell in love with God and the church and have dedicated my life to sharing that with others. After college I was a theology teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, worked at Camp Tekakwitha, was a diocesan consultant for faith formation and director of religious ed in the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV, worked at the chancery here in the archdiocese, and I now work at Prince of Peace as the director of faith formation. Serving the church has been a part of my life for over 20 years.
When I was 25, I started to have major spine problems, and have had a number of surgeries and constant chronic pain. With much grace from God, I have found ways to offer this suffering up for others and connect it to the suffering of Christ. It has been imperative that I am close to Christ in prayer in order to choose joy, and be an example for others. Prayer and the sacraments are how I stay connected to Christ.
Finding ways to welcome, support, and encourage others has always been a part of who I am. I am the 5th of 12 kids, so there were opportunities to grow in this. Also, whether in the classroom or with sports it was important to me to recognize and include everyone. I try to find ways to support, share honest feedback, be compassionate, and bring joy/humor to situations so that all feel wanted and able to grow. In this way I feel God has been showing me how he wants me to be a spiritual mother.
Q: Why did you feel called to this specific vocation?
Throughout my formation process in the archdiocese, I have taken many opportunities to reflect on being called to this vocation. Christ has been very generous to remind me of different desires I had as a teenager, college student, teacher, etc. and how he was waiting to fulfill them in this vocation.
Very specifically before beginning formation, I was praying about my vocation and heard “consecrated virgin living in the world.” I have known about this vocation but had forgotten, so I decided to Google it to see if it was a real thing. I couldn’t stop reading about it, thinking about, and praying about it. My soul was saying, “This. Finally. This is my finally. This is what I have been desiring. This is my fulfillment. This is exactly who I am.”
Q: What role will you play in the archdiocese and the church in general as a consecrated virgin?
As an employee in the archdiocese over the years, I have had a special connection already. As a consecrated virgin living in the world, I am blessed to continue to pray and serve the church, be a witness to all of the love God has for us and the hope we have regarding eternal life. In addition, the archbishop is a spiritual father to me in a different way than before.
Q: Is there a certain saint or someone else you look up to when it comes to your vocation?
I have been growing in my relationship with Mary and Joseph, as the parents of the bridegroom. I am so enamored with the depth and kinds of relationships we can have with these two. They have so much love, wisdom and strength. I encourage everyone to be willing to find new ways to connect with Mary and Joseph. They can show us so much about ourselves and God.
I have also had a connection with St. Kateri Tekakwitha since working at camp. I worked there for 11 summers! Her commitment to the Lord is so inspiring.
Lastly, growing up I went to St. Jude Parish. He is the patron saint of hopeless causes and his feast day is the day after my birthday. He was the only saint I really knew (other than Mary and Joseph) for a long time. I often tell him that I think I have been one of his special cases from day one and ask him to help me a lot.
Q: What impact has this vocation had on your relationship with Christ?
I am now a mystical bride of Christ. So, it has impacted my life INFINITELY. With becoming a bride of Christ, my relationship with him has to change. Similar to a married couple — they have to communicate often or there are a lot more struggles. I have to communicate with Christ. In practical ways, it is suggested that we go to daily Mass, pray the Liturgy of the Hours (specially morning and evening prayer, but we are encouraged to do more), and find time throughout the day to spend with Christ. I have also really become more aware of how my attitude towards others is significantly different depending on how my prayer life is. So, this vocation has also dramatically changed my relationship with others as I have become more aware of ways that I can be a better bride of Christ.
Q: Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
I appreciate all of the prayers. I feel very blessed to be able to pray and serve the archdiocese, and I look forward to finding more ways to share the love of Christ with everyone I meet.
Q: What were some of the impactful moments during the consecration?
- The smile and joy of Archbishop Naumann. He is such a wonderful shepherd, and I am so glad that I was able to be consecrated at his hands.
- Lighting the lamp and entering the sanctuary. It was impactful because it was the first thing I was doing at the consecration. And the imagery of desiring to be one of the wise virgins that is prepared for when the bridegroom comes. Since my consecration, I daily examine how prepared I am during the day.
- Laying prostrate during the Litany of Supplication. This was actually the most calming part of the entire celebration. I often feel that Jesus levels me and I find my calm in him. At this time I had my head facing the ground which allowed me to be with Him and detach from everything else. I got to be with my bridegroom, and it was very calming and peaceful.
- Renewed my intention and placed my hands in Archbishop Naumann’s hands. I said the words: “Father, 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.” It is hard to explain why this meant so much to me. It surprised me how important this part ended up being. The best way to explain it is that the gesture of his hands over mine was that of a father saying “I got you. I see you. I want you to succeed, and I am here to help.” As I mentioned earlier, he is my spiritual father in a new way, so this moment was very meaningful.
- The resolutions. I didn’t take vows or make promises. I made resolutions. I remember thinking how important my response was to these and that it is a big deal. Here are the resolutions and I responded “I am”.
Archbishop: Are you resolved to persevere to the end of your days in the holy state of virginity and in the service of God and his Church?
Archbishop: Are you resolved to follow Christ in the spirit of the Gospel that your whole life may be a faithful witness to God’s love and a convincing sign of the Kingdom of Heaven?
Archbishop: Are you resolved to accept solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
Q: Are there certain phrases during the consecration prayer that stood out to you more than others?
The prayer of consecration is filled with so many wonderful things. If I had to choose 3 parts, they would be:
- Lord, look with favor on your handmaid. She places in your hands her resolve to live in chastity. You prompt her in this, her intention; now she gives you her heart.
- Through the gift of your Spirit, Lord, give her modesty with right judgment, kindness with true wisdom, gentleness with strength of character, freedom with the grace of chastity. Give her the warmth of love, to love you above all others. Make her life deserve our praise, without seeking to be praised. May she give you glory by holiness of action and purity of heart. May she love you and fear you; may she love you and serve you.
- Be yourself her glory, her joy, her whole desire. Be her comfort in sorrow, her wisdom in perplexity, her protection in the midst of injustice, her patience in adversity, her riches in poverty, her food in fasting, her remedy in time of sickness. She has chosen you above all things; may she find all things in possessing you.
Q: You received a ring, veil and Liturgy of the Hours during Mass. Do all consecrated virgins in the world wear the same ring? If not, who decides what it looks like?
We all get to choose the ring we receive. I designed my ring.
3 strands-These symbolize the Trinity, as well as the 3 theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
To help remind me that my life is one of prayer, intercession, service, and sacrificial love, I had the strands braided like a crown to symbolize the crown of thorns.
The strands are made of white, rose, and yellow gold:
The white and rose strands symbolize the Divine Mercy, and Sacred Heart.
Yellow gold symbolizes that sometimes what is best may not be what we were expecting or wanting-The Back story. I don’t really like yellow gold, so I didn’t want to use it on my ring. However, I decided to see an option with it and when I saw the design, it was perfect! It is a reminder that sometimes what I think I want is not what is best for me. As well, there are things in life that may not seem to be that great (like sufferings or struggles) but when you see everything together you see how those moments have helped you to grow in your faith and help to build the body of Christ.
I also wanted to engrave a lily on the palm side of the ring, but didn’t know how I would do that. Because of the braided feature, the company had to put a sizing bar on the palm side of the ring, which gives me a place to engrave a lily.