Stepping forward to become a Sister of Providence
The past couple weeks I was in Southern California for my home visit to spend quality time with family and friends. The trending question people asked me: “What have the past months been like?” Along with follow up questions: “When are you going back to Indiana?” and “Are you going to move forward to the next step?”
While at the gate waiting to board my flight back, I reflected on these questions more seriously. I was dreading the fact that I would not see my family for another eight months, when the song “What a Journey” by Filipina artist Lea Salonga popped up in my playlist. I asked myself, why am I still aspiring to become a Sisters of Providence? Perhaps I should start with considering what the past 10 months have been and what I have gained.
Postulant life has been an opportunity for long-term coming and seeing, as well as tasting, seeing and hearing, what religious life is about as a young woman in the 21st century. It was an experience that welcomed me to jump into a new lifestyle with both feet. I left three decades of a California girl lifestyle. It was difficult, but through the grace of God, I was able to build new relationships. It’s hard to believe I’m claiming the Midwest as my new home.
The past 10 months have been an opportunity to get to know myself a little more deeply. I have been able to work on areas of my life that I deeply desired to mold but never made a priority, such as my prayer life. I have been able to learn creative ways to live a contemplative lifestyle, through a buffet of various prayer styles — an all-you-can-choose buffet! A spiritual companion once told me: praying is learning how to allow one’s mind, heart and soul to kiss and make friends.
These and many other opportunities have helped me on the way to becoming the best version of myself. My perception of God, Source of all, has expanded through various theology books and articles I’ve read during these past months. The experiences of community living have taught me much: how to discover what my limitations are and how I can make healthy choices based on my inner-truth. That I am what I am, and I am who God made me to be. And that I am loved and accepted by my sisters because I belong!
The flight attendant announced over the intercom, “Fasten your seatbelts. Put away all electronic devices to prepare for landing.” Tomorrow I will be received into the novitiate as a canonical novice and will receive a white cross representing that I am now Sister Jessica Vitente of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
The word novice is rooted in a Latin word meaning newly come into a particular status. In other words, as a novice I am a “newbie.” I may have had life experiences and created an identity before entering community. Yet I am still new to religious life and will need to take classes and workshops to help me along the way. These, along with prayer, will allow both my old and new identities to merge as a new version of me.
Moving on to the novitiate, I am curious to discover how new relationships will deepen. To learn how my spirituality will continue to expand. And to see how my whole being will be enriched by the beauty of God’s creation and the various discoveries shared by people throughout this next chapter of my journey.
I’ve stepped off the plane. Alrighty, ready … set … go!