Fifty-four years after Renee Doll’s parents and godparents promised to raise her as a Catholic through baptism (July 31, 1966), Doll continued that call with a commitment as a consecrated virgin living in the world. She was consecrated by Bishop Donald Kettler on July 31, 2020, at St. Henry Church in Perham.
It’s a vocation she learned about in 2013 from her spiritual director, Father Aaron Kuhn. She contacted the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins and studied Church history and aspects of the vocation.
“The more I read, the more excited I felt that this fits me,” Doll recalled.
The daughter of Eugene and Carol Doll, she and her six siblings attended grade school at St. Henry’s. Her faith led her to ministries in her parish’s office, to study social work and work with the elderly and people with disabilities and mental health issues. In the 1990s she lived with the sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fargo, North Dakota, and was just months away from taking final vows when she left in 1997.
“I liked my independence and felt something was missing,” she said, adding she was dealing with life issues and missed being part of a lay community.
Perham — still searching for God’s direction. The call as a consecrated virgin was the answer.
“I’m not connected with any specific order and can do any ministry I feel God calling me to do. I find more peace in it than I have in my life so far. I can be me,” she said.
Like early Church saints (Agnes, Agatha, Cecilia and Lucy, for example) Doll vows to remain a virgin her entire life, unite as a bride with Christ and live her life as a fruitful witness for him.
“Attitude is the basic change. It’s not my life anymore; Jesus lives through me,” she explained.
She will continue parish ministry, including leading Bible and book studies; praying the Liturgy of Hours, especially morning and evening prayers; and attend daily Mass as much as possible, while continuing her cashier job.
Doll’s consecration provides an example of a vocation and an official ritual in the Church that hasn’t had a lot of exposure, noted Father Kuhn.
“We are in a time period of the Church where people are saturated to do anything they want. The challenge is to hear the Lord’s voice,” he said.
“When we feel a tug at doing something religious it can be a lonely road if you don’t have someone to guide you.” Having studied canon law he knows about little-known vocations — like hermits and consecrated virgins — and appreciates when others become aware of them.
Working with the diocese, Doll filled out an application, went through a psychological evaluation like seminarians go through, wrote a personal biography, and had three letters of recommendation before Bishop Kettler gave his final approval. She will meet with him once a year.
Doll credits a formation team for helping her: Sister Margaret Michaud from St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph and Deacon Richard Quistorff from St. Henry’s. She will receive ongoing formation from Sister Hélène Mercier of St. Benedict’s Monastery as well as a consecrated virgin from Illinois, and spiritual guidance from Father Kuhn.
There isn’t any outward change in Doll since her consecration — except for her new ring.
“The ring will be a reminder that I am committed, like a married couple,” she said. “I’m excited about it and want to proclaim to the rooftops that God needs to be No. 1 in our lives and that I’m willing to dedicate my life to him.”
The rite of Consecration of Virgins for Women Living in the World was established 50 years ago under Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council. There are about 5,000 consecrated virgins living in the world. For more information, go to www.consecratedvirgins.org.
DEE GOERGE has written occasionally for The Central Minnesota Catholic and The Visitor.