Sister Jessica Vitente enters novitiate with Sisters of Providence
During her reflection on Saturday, Aug. 3, Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski stated these words foundress Saint Mother Theodore Guerin said to another sister more than 170 years ago:
“If … you are quite determined to belong entirely to God, to work with all your strength … I say to you with assurance, come.”
Sister Dawn then added, “Come, Jessica. With assurance I say to you, come.”
And with that, Jessica Vitente came forward to be given the novice’s white cross symbol of the Sisters of Providence and with, the title Sister. Sister Jessica had officially entered the Congregation’s novitiate to the applause of those who attended the ceremony in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. (Click here for a photo album of the ceremony).
“When I hear Sister Jessica, it surely rings differently in my ear,” Sister Jessica said recently. “I am still adjusting and allowing myself to go through the process of owning the title. Surely, it will take more time for it to blossom.”
The novitiate is a two-year process. The first year is referred to as the canonical year, the second the mission year.
Sister Jessica is a native of Pomona, Calif. She entered the Congregation as a postulant on Sept. 10, 2018. Previously, she graduated from Mount San Antonio College with an associate’s degree in accounting and earned a bachelor’s degree in human development from California State University, Long Beach.
During her canonical novice year, Sister Jessica and Sister Janice Smith, who ministers as the Congregation’s director of novices, will live in St. Louis at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN). This particular entity consists of women from various Dominican communities all of whom are part of the larger Inter-community Novitiate (ICN) study program of both women and men religious. Prior to this year, novices and directors from the Sisters of Providence traveled weekly to St. Louis for the ICN program.
“This is so we can be in closer proximity with the ICN,” Sister Jessica said. “The ICN allows various women and men communities of novices along with their respective novice director to attend workshops on many topics that will help form and shape our development as aspiring religious sisters and brothers.”
Sister Janice said the first year of the novitiate involves intense study of scripture, prayer, theology, community history and the vowed life among other topics.
“The novice delves more deeply into the Catholic faith, religious life and the history and traditions of the Congregation,” Sister Janice said.
According to Sister Janice, the Canon law of the Church has also established some regulations for the year.
“There are certain expectations about how the year is lived,” she said. “Canon law requires this year to be a continuous time period of 12 months, so that the novice can stay focused on the internalization of the Gospel values.”
She added the year can be viewed as all-consuming.
“There is a total focus on going deeper into one’s self and one’s relationship with God,” Sister Janice said. “The program is designed to help a woman really delve into what that means. She is given an opportunity to become very connected to what Jesus was teaching the world.
“Essentially, it’s the beginning of deep discernment. Every aspect of the novice’s life enters into this. She examines her call to religious life in the context of her whole being. It is a year of transformation and learning about who she is in her relationship to God, her community and all creation.”
The second year of the novitiate, the mission novice year, will see Sister Jessica beginning ministry.
Sister Jessica said she is humbled with the opportunity to begin this new journey.
“Through my community, these experiences will be a gift from God in gifting me with these opportunities to learn and grow,” Sister Jessica said, “to allow us to grow and develop as future women and men religious so that we can be the bridge for those who are on the margins and respond to the needs of our time.”
For more information about the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, visit SistersofProvidence.org.