Deacon E. Ann Dumolt, graduates next Spring from the joint Bloy House-CST M.Div. program to become a licensed chaplain. She is the parish deacon at St. Luke’s, Monrovia and works for the California Department of Social Services.
Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, there was always an understanding that when one matured into adulthood, one either married or entered into a religious vocation. Being a woman, my prospects were further limited to marriage or the religious life—ordination not being open to women. But what if I did not choose either? Why could I not choose to serve God as a single person? And why could I not formerly “seal the deal” so to speak, by professing a way of life that would include celibacy and take my place in the Christian community as a single adult “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever [I might] be; and, according to the gifts given [me], carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take [my] place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church?”
I am still a single adult and have chosen not to marry, opting instead to remain celibate—reasons for which I will address later. But I would like to formally profess a vow of celibacy. Why would this matter at all? Jean Sheridan, in her book, The Unwilling Celibates sums it up this way: “[Lifestyle] strongly affects the way in which one is perceived by the church….” Whether intentional or not, the church tends to disenfranchise the single adult, i.e., a singles ministry tends to be a social gathering with the goal of pairing for marriage. The Church does not know what to do with those who are divorced, widowed, and the never married that are outside the bonds of marriage. And how to address those who may be sexually active in an illegitimate way? There is a need to raise the awareness of what the single adult has to offer the Church and how the Church can affirm and support single adults in its congregations. There is no sacrament for single adults as there is for marriage and ordination. But something could be created that is similar to that which is carried out in religious orders: A rite that affirms the ministry of single adults which includes a vow of celibacy.