Consecrated Widows.

Of course all baptized people are consecrated to God, and each are called to participate in the building up of the Kingdom of God according to their own state of life and particular circumstances.  The Second Vatican Council, in renewing the ancient phrase “the universal call to holiness,” was echoing what saints have been urging all the Faithful throughout the history of the Church.

However, throughout the history of the Church there have always been men and women who, through a special grace of God, have chosen to follow Christ’s call in a special way; devoting themselves to Him with an “undivided” heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:34).  These persons are described as living the “consecrated life,” and in 1996 Pope John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter, Vita Consecrata, devoted to those who have chosen this way of following the Lord.

Often when we think of the Consecrated Life, we think of nuns, and religious sisters and brothers, and certainly they are some of the more common examples of persons living the Consecrated Life.  Yet there are other forms of Consecrated Life.  There are hermits, consecrated virgins living in the world, the various secular institutes and societies of apostolic life — and there are the consecrated widows and widowers.

Since apostolic times there have been consecrated widows (cf. 1 Tm. 5:5, 9-10; 1 Cor. 7:8), and in his Apostolic Letter, Pope John Paul II encouraged the renewal of this practice, while adding widowers.  “These women and men, through a vow of perpetual chastity as a sign of the Kingdom of God, consecrate their state of life in order to devote themselves to prayer and the service of the Church” (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata #7).

Now you may be wondering why I am talking about consecrated widows and widowers, well there has been a movement of the Spirit in my life.  As some of you may know, my father died about 14 months ago.  The last 15 years of his life, he and my mother went to Mass almost everyday and lived a life of devotion.  I am not saying that they were saints (and I certainly am not), but they were actively and consciously trying to be the best Christians that they could be.  Several months after my father died, my mother mentioned to me that she knew that God was not calling her to marry again, but that she wanted to dedicate her life to prayer and serving the Church.  I gave her a letter that St. Ambrose wrote to the consecrated widows in Milan back in the 4th century, thinking that it might provide her something of a “rule” which she could adapt to the 21st century for herself.  She came back to me and asked if they still had consecrated widows in the Church, and I told her that I did not know.

So I did what any priest/son of the 21st century would do — I googled (OK, I actually used Pro Life Search)  “consecrated widows.”  I found that in some other countries, the bishops have resurrected the order, and while the Vatican is working on a Rite of Consecration of Widows/Widowers, in the U.S. there was no consecrated widows/widowers as done before the local bishop for the local diocese.  However, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (S.O.L.T.) had started a group of consecrated widows within their religious community.  I passed the contact number on to my mother, and to her delight she found out that two members of the group lived in the Diocese of Trenton.  They gather monthly for prayer and study/formation, so my mother and another woman joined them.  Then they were five, and the five of them attended this week the national meeting of the group.  Right now the group, which has only been around for 4 or 5 years, only take yearly promises, and the five from New Jersey made or renewed their consecration.  So my mother is now a consecrated widow of the S.O.L.T.  They promise celebacy, to live simply, and obedience to their rule.  They pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary and Mass daily.  They reflect on one of the rules in their Rule each day in meditation, they will continue to gather monthly for prayer and formation/study, and they have taken St. Josephine Bakhita as their patron saint, with an apostolate (at least of prayer) of helping women who are being exploited.

But it continues.  I have started a School of Community (part of Communion and Liberation, one of the new ecclesial movements) at my parish, and someone in the group asked me if I knew anything about consecrated widows, so I referred her to my mother.  And today another woman asked me about consecrated widows.  Clearly the Spirit is moving.

About Fr. JC

Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Trenton, NJ, in 2004. Currently the Pastor of Resurrection Parish in Delran, NJ.
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36 Responses to Consecrated Widows.

  1. Alex Vitus says:

    Not sure if you know this, but CL has something called the Fraternity of St. Joseph. I don’t know too much about it.

    http://www.clonline.org/storiatext/eng/formevita/fratStJos.htm

  2. Alex,
    Thanks. Now that you mention it, I do remember the mention of the Fraternity of St. Joseph. I also think that there are a group of religious sisters too. Thanks for reading.

  3. Alice Carroll says:

    I am a widow who professed private vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, prayer of the heart and care of creation, with my Franciscan Community of Sisters and Associates (called Covenant Members)after discerning with our leadership team and meeting with the local Bishop to receiving his blessing.

    After my husband died at an early age (51 yrs.) I pondered my way of life and call (how I would respond to God’s love in prayer and service in the Church) and discerned that my consecration is actually another movement of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is a grace to know that instead of entering another marriage one desires to remain alone and live in relationship with Christ and in service to God’s people.

    Christian Widowhood, understood as a different ray/expression of vocation, is a call to contemplative prayer and living–prayer and action in the new state of life that becomes your reality. It is also a way of life that reflects the Wisdom of the Trinity. Marriage mirrors the dynamic life of relationship that is the resting and moving dynamic of God’s presence throughout creation and among people. Recognizing this reality, one lives in the light of the future coming New Creation present with us now and in which one’s spouse already participates in union with God.

    I believe there are any number of ways a widow or widower might live this way of life (consecration as associates of religious communities, members of local parishes, etc.) I am interested in having conversation with anyone who might have more questions or who would like to be part of a website group or blog. I will check back here to see if other women or men comment and express the same interest. Maybe there is a way we connect through the internet.

    Blessings ~ Alice

  4. Doreen says:

    I am a 46 yr old Dedicated Widow who took her vows on 9/23/2007 and am considering on being consectated but was told I was too young. I feel I have an urgent calling and I need to be in communion with God and to serve Him. My Spiritual Director says for now I have to serve my family since I live with my mom, daughter and grandson. I do what I can for them and am raising my grandson to know the Lord even thought my daughter does not believe in God. I am planting the seed so that someday when I am no longer in his life that seed will grow and he will follow God. I am looking to have conversation with other widows and have started a siste for widows with the help of spiritual writer Ronda Chervin. Please stop by and visit at http://widowedsistersofmary.wetpaint.com
    Mir
    Doreen

  5. Theresa Harvey says:

    I was married for 39 years and my husband was very ill for the last 12 years of his life. I have worked for the Church for 40 years. I am a DRE for a large parish and have worked here 20 years. We have 1600 students to be responsible for their religious education.
    I contacted Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM at the Sacred Constitution for Religious Life in Rome and she told me to take vows to my Spiritual Director as a Consecrated Widow. I did this on November 12, 2006. This was entered on my Baptismal which makes the vows now public. We have a new chancellor and the Bishop and I met. He asked me to submit information on Consecrated Widows and I did extensive research in Canon Law, Vita Consecrata and gave him the names of communities that have Consecrated Widows e.g. SOLT. The Bishop turned it over to the Chancellor and it has been a battle. Do you have any suggestions? The chancellors still insists that Consecrated Widows do not exist. I have prayed constantly for guidance. Help! Theresa

  6. Abbi says:

    I am waiting to see what the Holy Spirit is going to do with all of these “divorced” and unwed mothers. Are these not the ones whom He has come for?! Yet they are in no way acknowledged or appreciated by the church. The standard is for widows (aka “properly married” widows) and for virgins.
    The number of “single mothers” is exploding and we need to pray for them that there is a movement of the arm of Holy Mother Church to give them guidance to the One True Spouse, and sweep these women into her arms.
    I am one of those women, and only by the grace fo God have I been called to follow St. Paul’s teaching that it is better to remain unmarried. Like some consecrated women who are kept from the convent due to having to care for their parents, I am home caring for my beautiful son. I love my vocation as mother and also as spouse of Christ, as He has called me to and has given me the great grace to take a vow of perpetual chastity under a priest. God bless you all and may your souls magnify our Lord in Mary!

  7. alexsandra says:

    I have been a widow for 12 years. My only child has now left home, my mother passed away. I feel definitely called to a single life but wonder about this vocation for the future. So I am just checking it out for now and will pray about it.
    Thank you for the info and direction.

  8. Wow, there has been a lot of comments on this post, even more than a year later. That’s great. My mother actually just got back from the 50th anniversary of the foundation of SOLT (started I think with the priests), and she renewed her promises as a consecrated widow.

    First, Theresa, I am not sure what more I can tell you. Your chancellor is wrong, the Vatican has clearly stated a desire to re-establish a form of consecrated life for widows and widowers. It is true, that the U.S. Bishops have not yet had a rite of consecration of widows(ers) approved, but several dioceses in Europe has. Archbishop Burke, formerly of St. Louis, was working on the Rite of Consecration of Widows(ers) for the US, but now that he is in charge of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, I am not sure if he is going to complete it. Of course such a rite would only be used for making a consecration before the bishop of a diocese. You could just contact SOLT, or one of the other communities of consecrated widows and start your formation with them. My mother is fortunate that there are 4 other widows of SOLT living in our diocese, so the 5 of them (with one from DE going to join them) meet monthly for prayer and formation. Also, look at the site referenced by Doreen, above.

    Abbi, I am not sure what you mean when you say that the Church does not acknowledge nor appreciate divorced women and single mothers? The Church continues to show pastoral concern and care for these women. However, do you not see how the Church could not create a status of consecration for these states of life. Christ teaches us that divorce was never part of God’s plan, and that marriage is for life. Of course, the Church offers pastoral care for people who have suffered the pain of a divorce, and unless there is another impediment (like a remarriage outside the Church), welcomes them to receive the grace of the sacraments. However divorce is not a good thing. The Church cannot hold up that life circumstance as a special form of consecration within the Church.

    Similarly, the Church offers great care and compassion to single mothers (my one sister is one). The Church especially rejoices that they did not choose to kill their child through abortion, which is all too available. Yet the Church still holds that sexual intercourse, by its very nature, should be reserved for the state of marriage. Objectively, having sex outside of marriage is a sinful action (with the obvious exceptions of when it is forced on a person). The culpability of the action depends on many other factors and is between God, the person, and the person’s confessor. We are a Church of sinners — redeemed, forgiven, and saved by Christ — but we still have to witness to the reality of sin. How could the Church form a community of consecrated single mothers? It would seem to be saying that it was OK to go out and become a single mother.

    I think a better option for women (and men, if they are divorced and not remarried outside the Church, or a single father), who would like to make a special commitment to a style of life and prayer in the Church would be to investigate the many secular institutes and new ecclesial movements in the Church. For example, I am a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, which is one of the new ecclesial movements (other examples would include the Militia Immaculata, Opus Dei, Imago Dei, Foculare, NeoCatechuminal Way). Within CL there is also a secular institute (men and women who take vows of poverty, obedience and chastity while living in the world) called Memores Domini. All of these build on the most basic consecration that all Christians make, through their baptism.

  9. sandy says:

    What does Holy Mother Church say about consecrations of those women who have received annulments? Are they excluded? I am 58, the mother of two, ages 33 and 36, grandmother to four, yet wanting to be consecrated to Our Lord as His Alone. I have been divorced since 1978, the marriage was annuled and I have never remarried. How might I consecrate myself wholly to Our Lord at this point in my life?

  10. Fr. JC Maximilian says:

    Wow! I am pretty amazed that 18 months after I made this post about consecrated widows, that I still get comments on it. God is obviously at work.

    Sandy, since you have an annulment, in the eyes of the Church you have never been married. Obviously you could not be a consecrated widow, but there are other options. First, allow me to emphasize that through our baptism we are already consecrated, entirely, to the Lord. These other consecrations only is a deepening of how we live out our primary consecration of being baptized into the Body of Christ — Priest, Prophet and King.

    More specifically, you could discern joining one of the many secular institutes approved by the Church. These are women and men, some married, some single, who after a period of formation consecrate themselves through promises of obedience, chastity, and simplicity of life (each according to their state of life) to a particular form of spirituality and/or apostolate. Usually they continue to live in their own homes (some have chosen to live together), but come together regularly for prayer and to support each other in their life.

    The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), the community that my mother is associated with has priests, brothers, religious sisters, widows & widowers, and families. I am involved with the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation as a diocesan priest, yet the Fraternity of CL is mostly married people and single laity. One book that discusses a few of these movements is, New Ecclesial Movements: Communion and Liberation Neo-catechumenal Way Charismatic Renewal by Tony Hanna. Of course, try to find a good spiritual director to help you discern God’s call in your life.

  11. Bobette Pestana says:

    I’m 78, widowed for 13 yrs. I’m not sure what I could do as a consecrated widow that I’m not trying to do now. BUT this is a problem. A man in my senior complex drives people places. I asked him to take me to a penance service. I asked him about his going to confession. Long time, but he went and did. NOW he’s started to court me. I’ve told him I’m his “sister” but he doesn’t seem to “get it.” Any thoughts/

  12. request as above subject.

  13. C. Settanni says:

    Dear Fr. Maximilian,
    Pax Christi!
    It will be interesting to see how often you monitor this page. =) I have been a widow for 2 1/2 years after almost 15 years of marriage. I am interested in becoming a consecrated widow, but it would only be with the intention of moving higher when my children were grown. I have labored for years (with spiritual guides)in discerning my true vocation (yes, even after being married) and am only recently able to say with certainty that I am called to the religious state. My youngest child is still only 4 and I want to do something concrete as an expression of my dedication to Our Lord and His Church now while I wait in widowhood. What are your thoughts? Is a consecration of widowhood possible without being involved with a religious order and then would it be conceiveable for a person to move higher? I am a Third Order Carmelite and would wish to stay Carmelite later. Who would I write to to encourage an actual Consecration be allowed again? I definitely think someone needs to know how there is so much interest.
    You remain in my prayers in a special way from now on. May you always persevere in your priesthood!

  14. Diane Slater says:

    Dear C. Settanni–I was widowed 5 years ago. I knew even before I was widowed that if I was ever a widow I would want to belong to Jesus.
    Consecrated Widowhood is a calling from Jesus, as is any religious vocation. What does Jesus want? Not, what do I want. That is so important.
    I am now a Consecrated Widow in the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity. It took me 5 years to find exactly where Jesus wanted me. As I have a retarded child it is impossible for me to travel as well as enter a monastery.
    Jesus led me little by little to where I am at today. It started with saying the Liturgy of the Hours each day and asking Him over and over–what is it you want?
    I understand your leaning to Carmel as I love the Carmelite spirituality….if later, after your children are raised, Jesus really is calling you to Carmel, He will make it so obvious. In the meantime, just living completely your life as a Third Order Carmelite will please Jesus so much and also be a living witness to your children of your tremendous love of God.
    I will keep you in my prayers and ask you to also pray for me!

  15. This post continues as the one that I have received the most comments on. I really am not an expert on all the options for consecrated widows(ers). The only one I know anything about is the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity (SOLT) because that is the one my mother joined (Mrs. Slater, did you meet my mom at any of your retreats? She was not there this year, but the previous two years?). Obviously there is an interest, which suggests a movement of the Holy Spirit. Google it, check out SOLT, ask your Diocese. And I will try to find more information about it, and make a new post.

  16. Diane Slater says:

    Father Maximilian — The only consecrated widow that I know in SOLT is Nikki Sullivan….I have a retarded son–age 17 with a mental age of 2– and I am confined to staying here on home base. Traveling is not an option for me….Nikki understands the situation and so she sends me the retreats via cd’s and I speak with her often.
    I really hope that more and more widows are able to know about consecrated widowhood….such a treasured vocation.
    I corresponded with Ronda Chervin for quite a while as she had started a group of Consecrated Widows. She has dismantled that for now anyway but she had been instrumental in the beginning of the Consecrated Widows of SOLT which is approved by Rome and has the advantage of being part of SOLT which has been in existence, under the saintly leadership of Father Flanagan, for 50 years. There is a rule to be studied or meditated upon, a formation period and for those who can, a getting together of the consecrated widows.
    I am praying that in God’s time there may some consecrated widow vocations in the area I live in so that I would have some fellow widows in consecrated life to be a part of.
    This is a wonderful website. The Holy Spirit is indeed at work in so many areas in the Church.
    The springtime Pope John Paul ll alluded to is happening!
    In Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
    Diane in Idaho

  17. kateri rose says:

    I’ve been a widow for 10 years and a member of the secular franciscans. I have no extended family or children. My ideal would be to actually live within a religious community but not take vows–support them financialy as I am retired and have my own autonomy but follow the rules of the community. Praying with then, fellowship with them and contribute some sort of service time to them. Does anyone know if this is possible and could give me some suggestions as to the feasability of such an idea? Finding a solid orthodox community is also a challenge.

  18. sandrar says:

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  20. Meg says:

    I am a widow after 26 years of marriage of which 17 years my dear husband and I battled his cancer. I have no immediate family living and no children and have known since before my husband’s death that I wanted to pursue consecration fo some sort after becoming a widow. (I actually discussed it with him and sought his support – which he gave delightedly!) I am still relatively young – will be 50 this summer – and would either need to seek a community that would allow me to support myself through an outside job or that would by its’ structure be able to provide support and living arrangements to its’ members who belonged. Any ideas would be welcomed – and I am open to joining an order of sisters if that is an option and if in so doing I don’t lose my identity as the widow of a terrific man – ie – that my marriage is not viewed as a mistake or temporary distraction on the path to my “true vocation”. ANY thoughts, prayers or ideas would be most welcome! Thanks and prayers!

    • Jennie Pierce says:

      Dear Megan, from your description of your situation you might want to take the time to inquire into the Daughters of Divine Hope based in Tyler,Texas. They are an association of s religious women who come together to live out the charismatic of Hope. Mother Susan Catherine is the foundries of the community. The community was formed in particular for aging widows who have very few times to the secular world. You must be self supporting and able to cover you needs in retirement. Health care insurance is a requirement. I think if you Google the Daughters of Divine Hope you with directed to their webpage which will provide information on how to contact Mother Susan Catherine. You can use my name if you wish.

  21. Liz Hall says:

    I really think Rome needs to get this!!! There are so many of us dedicated to our husbands, yet widowed and wanting not to remarry but to almost renew our earthly vows and transition into a more spiritual state, as have our spouses.

    We have so much to offer of ourselves and our communities and we need to find a place in this world. We know who we are and what we want, I am childless but do not want to entera convent, rather live in my parish and honour my commitments to my husband’s relatives and to my own family and friends. I pray that we will all be guided.

  22. margaret mary says:

    i too am a widow who would love to consecrate the rest of my life to Jesus. i have been involved in work in the church for many years. but i also lived in with a contemplative order for a while and had been accepted as a Postulant.but my children were devastated they could not understand why i was doing this, (i must say i was very happy there)when i came home to get things in order i did not return, i could not believe the look of despair and hurt on their faces. they said we lost our dad now we are losing you. i tried to explain how much i loved Jesus but they were not listening. but the feeling deep within is still there i still wish to consecrate my life to Jesus and if you could let me know if there is a similar community in Ireland i would be very grateful

  23. Pingback: Waiting in Joyful Hope | Consecrated widows

  24. Alice Carroll says:

    My understanding is that it would be beneficial to write to:

    Cardinal Francis Arinze,
    Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
    00120
    Vatican City State
    Europe

    and express your desire for the approval of a rite of consecration for widows in the US. The charism of this way of life is a gift of the Spirit for the Church and the world. I believe this expression of consecration can, and IS, being lived by a growing number of widows in this country. For further discussion about this way of life I will leave an email address xeniacarroll@aol.com with subject line: consecrated widows. One in the Spirit, who calls us to prayer and ministry. Blessings, Alice

  25. Ann says:

    Father, do you have contact information or a web site for the Consecrated Widows in NJ? I have a friend in CT who is looking for more info. Thanks!

  26. Kathleen Marshall says:

    I am a widow who has been researching and discerning Consecrated Widowhood since last year. I have talked to widows all over the U.S.A. who have made private promises with a Priest present, some belong to the Widows of Prayer (around for 19 yrs.), SOLT and the Holy Family Institute a branch of the Pauline Family. Many women are interested, yet most Priests and Bishops are not informed about it. I hope to change that with writing and speaking about it and we all hope that it will reach the Vatican and that the Order of Widows will be reinstituted and written into Canon Law in the Latin Rite.

  27. Fr. JC Maximilian says:

    Dear Kathleen,
    The Vatican has already reinstituted the Order of Widows, and there are Canons which would govern their status in the Church. Blessed John Paul II wrote an encyclical, “On Consecrated Life,” which explicitedly reestablished the Order of Widows (and Widowers). The Vatican called for the bishops in the various countries to develop a Rite of consecration for widows, and several countries have done so. The United States have not, yet. Cardinal Burke had been asked by Rome to write the rite for the US, when he was the archbishop of St. Louis. I believe he had a first draft done when he was called to service in the Vatican. I’m not sure of the current status of the rite. I would imagine it would not be all that different than the rite for hermits and consecrated virgins.

    I agree that there are many women interested. I think I have had more comments on this blog entry than all my other posts combined.

  28. gwen says:

    Dear Father, will you repost when such a rite has been made possible? I have made a private vow, but would like to be consecrated by the church. God bless you!

    • Jennie Pierce says:

      Gwen, I was consecrated yesterday in a private Mass concelebrated by my spiritual director and my confessor. I am living at home and have vowed to remain celibate for the rest of my life. I have dedicated the rest of my life to helping the poor and sick in parishes in East Texas through parish nursing ministry. I wear simple clothing and have promised to be obedient to the church and our local Bishop. You may contact me if I can be of any help.

  29. Lea says:

    Father- Are there more updates on Church Rite and Canonical recognition?

  30. sharon says:

    In the UK there are many consecrated widows, not part of a lay association, consecrated by their bishop.
    The bishop uses the ” Rite of the Initial Consecration to the Order of Consecrated Widows”

    You can see pictures of it here: “After some years of prayerful reflection and preparation, a widowed lady from the newly merged parish of Our Lady of Furness asked to be admitted to this state. As bishop, I received and sanctioned her request in this liturgical rite which took place within Mass. ”
    http://www.lancasterdiocese.org.uk/Groups/154613/The_Diocese_of/Our_Bishop/Bishops_Blog/Bishops_Blog.aspx
    (search the page for ‘widow’ its about halfway down)

  31. sharon says:

    •The French widow is consecrated by her bishop (English translation) http://tinyurl.com/q6ulykg

    •UK news article about the consecration of widows: http://archive.catholicherald.co.uk/article/5th-july-1996/9/once-again-widows-and-widowers-heed-the-popes-call

  32. sharon says:

    ior to the 1983 code of canon law, virgins living in the world were consecrated at the discretion of their Bishops in Europe. Similarly, now Widows are also being consecrated at the discretion of local Bishops.

    There is an international pious association of lay faithful in France called The Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Resurrection (http://www.veuves-chretiennes.cef.fr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65) with three fundamental documents:

    • The charter, drafted in 1982, defines the charism of the consecrated vocation of widowhood in the fraternity.
    • The ritual of consecration and blessing of widows, approved in 1984 by the Roman Congregation for Divine Worship and Liturgy.
    • The constitution, approved in 1993 by the Archbishop of Paris, recognizing the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Resurrection as “private association of the faithful.”

    Obviously those are lay, dedicated widows. HOWEVER:

    this has evolved into Bishops ‘consecrating’ autonomous women using the Rite outside of the Sisterhood in a few dioceses around the world.

    In the UK, from what I understand, a consecrated virgin has taken their Rite, translated it into english and altered parts of it so it talks about the ‘Order of Widows’ instead of the ‘Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Resurrection’, and has made it suitable for autonomous women. This amended, translated rite was given to Bishops in the UK, who are now ‘consecrating’ widows using this rite, and now apparantly almost every UK diocese has at least one. There are so many that we have a joint association for consecrated virgins and widows, and the consecrated widows have a national gathering in Ampleforth, UK.

    I know some of them personally, they are wonderful, devout women. It is so wonderful to see the consecation of widows being practiced by Bishops again today.

  33. sharon says:

    one more comment, sorry. For those of you wanting more info on the consecrated widows, the diocesan contact for Lancaster Diocese linked above is on this page at the bottom: http://www.lancasterdiocese.org.uk/Groups/154848/The_Diocese_of/People_and_Places/Religious_Communities/Religious_Communities.aspx

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