Victoria Selkirk on Sunday became the first person within the Diocese of Fresno to join a special order within the Roman Catholic Church for people who promise to live a life of chastity.
Those within the Order of Virgins continue to live “in the world” and do not reside in convents, like nuns. It’s estimated there are fewer than 300 in the United States, and between 5,000 and 6,000 worldwide.
Selkirk, 36, of Lemoore, will continue to work as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, serving as a registered dietician.
Bishop Armando Ochoa administered a special ceremony during the Sunday morning Mass at St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno, praying over Selkirk, who wore a long white wedding gown. Ochoa said she “awaits Christ, the bridegroom.”
Selkirk has had lots of friends try to play matchmaker over the years, but her heart was totally settled on Jesus Christ.
“One of my friends’ first questions was, ‘But what happens if you meet someone?’ ” Selkirk recalled earlier. “I said, ‘I’ve already met him, and he’s mine.’ ”
During Sunday’s ceremony, those in the pews prayed with Selkirk and the bishop, who also addressed each of the Catholic saints. Catholics believe a consecration calls down God’s grace upon a person.
“Lord, look with favor on this, your handmaiden, Victoria,” Ochoa prayed. “She places in your hands her resolve to live in chastity. You have offered her this, her intention; now she gives it to you in her heart. … You give to some the grace of virginity, yet the honor of marriage is in no way lessened.”
As a younger woman, Selkirk went on some dates, but never fell in love or felt a desire to be married – although she’s not against the institution of marriage.
“I will say that I’m attracted to men, there’s no doubt … but what’s set before me is so incredibly alluring; it’s Jesus Christ,” Selkirk said. “He draws me into his heart.”
She didn’t know the Catholic Church had a special designation for like-minded women until she stumbled on a Wikipedia page online 11 years ago, explaining the Order of Virgins.
After much prayer and preparation, she formally petitioned the church last year to join the order. After numerous meetings with the bishop and a spiritual director, her request was approved in September, and her consecration set for May 29.
Unlike a priest, Selkirk’s consecration doesn’t require that she serve the church in an institutional role. She plans to continue devoting most of her time serving patients in the Navy.
Selkirk said she felt an “almost supernatural peace” wash over her during Sunday’s ceremony.
“I am tremendously joyful and grateful – probably the most joyous moments in my entire existence so far,” she said.
Nancy Dominguez, who attended the full Mass, was moved to tears.
“Here she is declaring her virginity, giving her life, her heart, wholeheartedly, without hesitation, to live righteously and to live spiritually,” Dominguez said. “Just giving all of herself to God; it’s just beautiful.”
Outside the cathedral after the ceremony, Selkirk was congratulated by a long line of churchgoers, including a group of nuns, the Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa from Lemoore. Her parents, Alexander and Joanne Selkirk, and Kamala Singh, a friend and candidate for the Order of Virgins from London, stood nearby.
Alexander Selkirk said he’s very proud of his daughter, who made the decision to join the order on her own, adding that she “has always been a modern woman of the world.”
Victoria Selkirk called the ceremony “humbling.”
“What this is all about is God’s grace toward me,” she said. “It’s not that I’m righteous and holy in some way; it’s grace.”