BBC 100 Women has announced its list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2018.
With their help we will explore a variety of themes, including using anger to spark action, and uncovering women from the shadows of history.
Ranging in age from 15 to 94, and from more than 60 countries, the BBC 100 Women list includes leaders, trailblazers and everyday heroes.
Some will be telling us about what they will be putting in the Freedom Trash Can – our digital bin for all the items women feel hold them back.
Others will bring us stories of achievement against the odds – from the British woman who used her jail time to create an inspiring business, to the Afghan girl who was almost swapped for a boy.
Midway through the you find this unexpected name:
40) Jessica Hayes, 41 – Teacher, US.
Jessica is a consecrated virgin – vowing perpetual virginity as a bride of Christ – who teaches high-school theology classes and serves as a vocational adviser.
USA TODAY profiled her three years ago:
Jessica Hayes, an Indiana high school teacher, married the love of her life Aug. 15, in a touching, albeit irregular, ceremony. Contrary to what one might expect, Hayes was not marrying a boyfriend.
She was marrying Jesus Christ.
Standing alone in a bridal gown at the altar of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Ind., the 38-year old dropped to the floor. When the ceremony finished, Hayes joined a small, yet deeply devout group of Catholics known as “consecrated virgins.”
She became one of just 200 women in the United States and is currently the only consecrated virgin at the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
“Jessica, like Mary and the many consecrated virgins in the early history of the Church, several of whom are canonized saints, has heard the call of the Lord to live as His spouse,” Bishop Kevin Rhoades said in his homily. “The Church confirms this call as authentic. Jessica is making the courageous choice that our Blessed Mother made — the choice of virginity in order to consecrate herself totally to the love of God.”
Years into my career as a high school religion teacher, though I enjoyed teaching and loved my students, I began to wonder if the frustrations I also experienced in my work were a sign that I ought to be doing something different with my life. I sought spiritual direction with this question in mind, and my director wisely pressed me to delve more deeply into the desires the Lord had placed in my heart. It was here where things really changed for me; I now had someone asking me new questions and holding me accountable for the answers. I could finally articulate where I found the most happiness: studying and teaching the Faith to young people, being available to serve my family and parish community, praying in the quiet solitude of my home. And I longed for one thing I didn’t yet have: to give myself in a way I couldn’t take back. It seemed that the idea of consecrated virginity lived in the world appeared to me through this discernment of my joys. In a moment of perfect clarity, I felt I was being offered everything that I most wanted. With St. Thérèse the Little Flower, my heart responded, “I choose all!”
Read more. Kudos and congratulations — and major props to the BBC for including her on their list!
Meantime, check out this interview with Jessica on her “wedding day”: