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Hermits, Consecrated Virgins Topic of Franciscan University Professor's Presentation to U.S. Bishops

June 18, 2012 - 8:19 PDT


STEUBENVILLE, OH (June 18, 2012) - Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, the newest member of the Theology Department at Franciscan University of Steubenville, presented a paper titled "Consecrated Virgins and Hermits" to approximately 40 bishops, prior to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Spring General Assembly in Atlanta.

"Consecrated virgins and canonical hermits, as well as all forms of consecrated life, are intended to promote the holiness of all persons within the diocese and the Church," said Father Sheridan, adding that they do so "as they witness to their lives and pray for the people of God within the diocese."

Father Sheridan gave his talk as part of "The Diocesan Bishop and the Diocesan Forms of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life," a symposium offered by the USCCB's Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations on June 11. The symposium addressed the theological, canonical, and pastoral relationship of diocesan bishops with those in consecrated life, and included talks by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago, and Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.

Though the vocation to live as hermits and consecrated virgins is less well known today and accurate estimates of their numbers are difficult to provide, Father Sheridan said, "The United States Association of Consecrated Virgins estimates that there are approximately 3,000 consecrated virgins in the world, with consecrated virgins represented in about 86 dioceses of the United States."

Unlike their counterparts in religious communities, hermits and consecrated virgins "live consecrated life as individuals," with hermits observing "stricter withdrawal from the world" and consecrated virgins "living in the world."

A canon lawyer concentrating his research and canonical consulting in the areas of consecrated life and the teaching office of the Church, Father Sheridan drew from the 1983 Code of Canon Law as he detailed the guidelines and definitions of consecrated virgins and hermits.

"From the early days of the Church, both men and women lived as consecrated virgins," he said. "However, the current Rite for Consecration only pertains to the admission of women to the order of virgins."

Explaining that the Code of Canon Law does not identify specific requirements for admission to the order of virgins, he said the Rite of Consecration does provide guidance for women discerning this vocation.

The requirements state that the women must have never been married or lived in public or flagrant violation of chastity; that by their age, prudence, and universally attested good character they give assurance of perseverance in a life of chastity dedicated to the service of Church and neighbor; and that they be admitted to this consecration by their bishop.

Regarding hermits, Father Sheridan said canon law specifies certain requirements that must be followed for an individual to be recognized as a canonical hermit.

"The hermit observes stricter withdrawal from the world to the silence of solitude, assiduous prayer, and penance; he or she must make a public profession of the evangelical counsels in the hands of the diocesan bishop; and live according to his or her approved plan of life," he said.

Additionally, Father Sheridan explained that since the Church has not established a specific rite for the diocesan bishop to receive a hermit's profession, the hermit may use a formula similar to the profession for a member of a religious institution, including that formula in his or her plan of life.

Ordained in 2006, Father Sheridan holds a doctorate in canon law from The Catholic University of America, where he teaches as an assistant professor of canon law. Before he entered the Franciscan Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Father Sheridan, who also holds a juris doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, practiced law in Sacramento and Pittsburgh, focusing on health care litigation, primarily with the representation of hospitals and physicians.

Father Sheridan recently completed four years of service on Franciscan University's Board of Trustees. He will begin teaching at Franciscan University in the fall 2012 semester, offering both undergraduate and master's level theology courses.


Franciscan University of Steubenville
OH, 43952 US
Tom Sofio - Associate Director of Public Relations,


Father Sean O. Sheridan, Franciscan University, Steubenville, Hermits, Consecrated Virgins, Bishops


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