Stages of formation as a sister
In this video, Sister Arrianne Whittaker describes the formation process of becoming a Sister of Providence. Read below to learn more about each of the steps in the formation process.
Becoming a Sister of Providence is a multi-year process. Many sisters will tell you that they’re always learning how to live their lives as Sisters of Providence. For the first 6-9 years of initial membership, there is a defined formation program.
After formally entering the congregation, a woman becomes a postulant (like Maria in The Sound of Music, before the Mother Abbess sends her to be a governess). SP postulants move into the formation house, take on a volunteer ministry at the motherhouse, visit other sisters to observe where they live and work and travel monthly to an inter-community formation program. They meet weekly with the director of postulants who guides their ongoing discernment.
Time frame: 10 to 24 months
Goal: To immerse yourself in the life and charism of the Sisters of Providence to aid in discerning whether to continue down the path to full membership.
The Canonical Novice begins an intensive year of “becoming.” In a new way (because “Novice” means “new”) the Canonical Novice takes on the identity of “Sister.” During this year she explores what it really means to “be Sister” through dedicated time in prayer and discernment of the vowed life. It can be called a year of retreat: to intensely study Scripture, Congregation and Church history, and to develop a deeper connection to God, her community and the world. She also joins with other novices in a weekly inter-community experience. She discerns this time with her novice director weekly.
Time frame: 12 months
Goal: To deepen your understanding and relationship with God, the community and yourself as a new Sister of Providence.
In preparation for taking first vows, the sister moves out of the formation house and into a local community of Sisters of Providence. With her director, she discerns a ministry (“a job”), where she can be of service to the broader community and contribute financially to the congregation. As “Sister,” she participates in the life of her local community. During this time, she also studies more deliberately what it means to profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience through prayer, conferences with her director, and discussion groups with other professed sisters.
Time frame: 10 months
Goal: To integrate the spirituality and charism of the Sisters of Providence in an apostolic lifestyle and further discern the call to full membership in the congregation.
A sister first professes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with the Sisters of Providence for a period of one year. After the first year, she may renew her vows for one, two or three years at a time. During this time, she meets regularly with a mentor. She continues to live in a local community with other sisters, is involved in active ministry and continues to focus on her personal growth as a Sister of Providence.
Time frame: 3-6 years
Goal: To enhance the discernment process as a Sister of Providence through experiencing the commitment before making a permanent vow to life as a Sister of Providence.
In her final year of temporary profession, a Sister of Providence prepares to profess perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence. In addition to continuing her ministry, the sister will engage with other sisters for special gatherings for prayer, reading, reflection and sharing on topics of the vows, community living and religious life. She will participate in a special time of service and a 30-day retreat. She’ll end her year by professing perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence, sealing her life-long commitment.
Time frame: 1 year
Goal: To prepare a sister to make a permanent life commitment as a Sister of Providence.