by Therese Ivers, JCL
There is a considerable amount of interest among Catholic widows/widowers in the USA in the vocation of consecrated widowhood. For this reason, I am dedicating a new series of posts on this vocation. In this first post, I will examine 5 commonly asked questions.
Question: Who is eligible to become a consecrated widow/er?
Answer: An Eastern Rite Catholic who was in a valid marriage dissolved by death of their spouse and whose laws of their ritual Church and eparchy permit this form of consecration.
At this point in time, the Latin (Roman) Catholic Church has not re-established the Order of Widows/Widowers in its Canon Law. However, the Canons for the Eastern Catholic Churches do allow for the consecration of widows and widowers. Thus, while Eastern Catholics may become members of the consecrated state (in Eastern Catholic Churches members are religious men/women, canonical hermits, consecrated virgins, and consecrated widows/widowers), Roman Catholics in the USA cannot (since the consecrated state in the Latin Church is comprised of religious men/women, diocesan hermits, and consecrated virgins).
Question: I am 58. My marriage was annulled by the Church last year. Since then, my ex wife has passed away. Am I eligible to become a consecrated widower?
Answer: A man must be in a valid marriage and this marriage must dissolve by death for him to be eligible for the consecration. A declaration of nullity (“annulment”) of a marriage given by the Church indicates that a person was never in a valid marriage to begin with. For this reason, although you lived in what you thought was a marriage, and she has since died, you are considered by the Church to have been a single person throughout this whole time, and do not meet the definition of widower in the eyes of the Church.
Question: Who is the consecrated widow/ers superior?
Answer: The consecrated widow/er has as his/her superior the local hierarch.
Question: I thought there were consecrated widows in the United States. Are you saying there aren’t?
Answer: There may be some Eastern Catholic widows who were consecrated in the United States. Since there are no provisions in canon law or permission for the consecration to be conferred upon Roman Catholic widow/ers in the USA, there are no consecrated widow/ers in the USA in the Roman Rite. This may change if the Vatican comes out with a Rite of Consecration to the Order of Widows and Widowers. Please note that there are groups out there who deem their members to be “consecrated widows/ers” because they make private promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These persons are actually dedicated widows/ers, not consecrated widows/ers, and they do not belong to the Order of Widows/Widowers as this standing comes from the consecration conferred by their hierarch/bishoop, not vows of any kind.
Question: Do consecrated widows/widowers make the three vows?
Answer: While that would be up to the laws of the Rite and the particular laws established by the hierarch, it is improbable that they would. It is more likely that the consecration of widow/ers by the hierarch would be the way a person would enter the Order. This would be similar to the way consecrated virgins enter the Order of Virgins- through the consecration conferred upon them by their bishop/hierarch.
This is the first part of a series on this topic. If you have any specific questions about this vocation, feel free to send us a message by going to the contact us page.