Tier woman receives unique consecration
ELMIRA -- Through the years, Diane Christine Farr's intense devotion to her faith has been a constant.
"When I was 15 years old, I began to realize I had a vocation," she said.
Pinpointing her exact vocation, however, took quite some time. The picture finally became clearer after Farr began learning about consecrated virgins in the early 1990s. She recalled that at the time, it dawned on her that "this is the spirituality I've embraced all my life."
Farr, 41, was consecrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark during the 10:30 a.m. Mass Feb. 20 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, where she is a parishioner. The event was a historic one: Farr is the first person in the Diocese of Rochester to be consecrated into the Ancient Order of Virgins.
The term "consecrated virgin" is not all that common, but in fact this form of consecrated life goes back to the Catholic Church's early history.
"It predates religious orders," Farr said, explaining that the practice ceased in the Middle Ages except in cloistered orders and wasn't restored to the general church until 1970.
A consecrated virgin is considered a bride of Christ while imitating the Virgin Mary through a commitment of perpetual virginity and a life of prayer and service. She must have never married or lived in open violation of chastity.
"Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite," according to Canon 604 in the Revised Code of Canon Law.
Farr dressed in a bridal gown for her consecration Mass. Bishop Clark also presented her with a veil and ring symbolizing her new union with Christ. Among the many family, friends and clergy in attendance that day were other consecrated virgins from Missouri, Michigan, Massachusetts and Florida.
According to Farr, there are approximately 100 consecrated virgins in the United States. It is understood that consecrated virgins remain self-supporting: They have such diverse careers as certified public accountant, dental assistant and working with special-needs children.
Farr has been visually impaired since birth -- she requires a high-powered magnifying glass to read -- and also suffers from anemia. Although she does not work full time, she keeps a busy schedule through composing and performing music, nature projects and artwork.
"I am not lazy," she said with a laugh.
In addition, she has served as a music and religious-education volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes. She has also been a Lay Dominican since 1984, practicing a life of spirituality, service, preaching and teaching in conjunction with the Order of Preachers religious order. Farr is currently a mistress of novices, providing guidance for those who have not yet become professed as Lay Dominicans.
At one time she pursued becoming a woman religious with the Dominicans.
"What I realized was, God was leading me elsewhere," she said.
In 2001 she began petitioning the Rochester Diocese to have Bishop Clark meet with her -- the diocesan bishop is the only person who can perform this consecration. The consecration was years in the making, but Farr said she's elated that her goal has finally been met. "The Lord likes to reward our trust, I think," she said.
Now Farr is hoping that more women will follow her lead and pursue becoming consecrated virgins. "I want to help others out there discerning a call to the consecrated life," she said, although diocesan officials said that no other consecrations are currently being planned.
Farr attends daily Mass at the Dominican Monastery, not far from her Elmira home where she lives with her parents, George and Teresa. Most days she is driven to Mass by Karen Kilpatrick, a parishioner of St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo. Kilpatrick also assisted Farr in many areas of preparation for her consecration.
Daily liturgy is among the many recommended activities for consecrated virgins, along with praying the Liturgy of the Hours, volunteering in one's parish community and meeting annually with the bishop. Yet perpetual virginity remains the most distinctive feature of Farr's new religious life.
"This is a vocation of being, rather than a vocation of doing," she remarked.