Three Michigan women became consecrated virgins in a rare Catholic ceremony on 24 June, becoming "brides of Christ" at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

The women have not become nuns but will instead continue with their normal professional and social lives having given themselves back to Jesus with the promise of perpetual virginity.

It was the first time the ceremony had been performed at the Detroit cathedral and the first time in America that three virgins had been consecrated at the same time, according to the Catholic Herald.

"It's a promise that we make to be faithful to Christ all our life," college professor Theresa Jordan explained.

"[We] make him a promise of our virginity as a gift back to him."

Catholic girls' school headmistress Karen Ervin said: "We are all rooted in Christ. That's are primary identity and being able to make a resolution to live in perfect chastity for my whole life [means] I get to testify that God satisfies. He is enough.

"We have this unique ability as consecrated virgins to keep that lamp lit, to say that your heart your soul and your being can solely belong to God and he will fill you when you do that."

The third bride, Laurie Malashanko, explained the history of consecrated virgins within the Catholic church, which begins with 1st century martyrs.

"If you've heard of St. Cecilia or Agnes or Lucy, they were all virgins living in the world," she said.

The United States Association of Consecrated Virgins estimate that there are currently 250 consecrated virgins living in the US and 4,000 worldwide.

The role for non-ordained consecrated virgins is detailed in the New Testament but bishops in the 12th century put a stop to the tradition because they believed that women committed to sustaining their virginity would be better protected living as nuns.

However, this view was revised in 1970 by the Second Vatican Council and, once again, consecrated virgins were able to live outside of religious communities.

French Professor Jordan told the Catholic News Service: "It's a beautiful gift to have and it's a beautiful gift to give back to Christ, as he was a virgin himself."