She stood at the altar in a white gown and veil, but she was there for no earthly man. Lori Rose Cannizzaro was dedicating her virginity to Jesus.
The rare Catholic ceremony, one her own pastor did not know existed, turned the 42-year-old into a "consecrated virgin" on Saturday. Fewer than 200 women in the United States and 2,000 worldwide have declared their perpetual virginity this way, according to US Association of Consecrated Virgins.
"There are people who think I'm nuts," Cannizzaro said.
The ceremony was a revival of one of the church's oldest rituals.
The rite is available only to virgins, who agree to abstain from sex so they can dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ in what the association describes as a mystical marriage and a profound spiritual blessing. Each woman wears a band on her left ring finger as a symbol, much like a wedding band.
Cannizzaro, who is not a nun, will continue to live on her own and work as a cook at Christ the King Seminary in suburban Buffalo.
She said she has plenty of support from family and friends.
"It is a good and holy thing to want to be in a virginal state," she said.
The idea of consecrated virgins faded in the Middle Ages, but Pope Paul VI restored the rite in 1970. Only a bishop can perform the special Mass. Bishop Edward Kmiec led Cannizzaro's ceremony at her home parish, Immaculate Conception.