Two sisters profess first, perpetual vows
For Sisters Arrianne Whittaker and Su-Hsin Huang, Sunday, June 29, was a life-changing day.
On that day, Sister Arrianne professed first vows, while Sister Su-Hsin professed perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.
Both sisters have come from very different backgrounds. But the paths they have chosen brought them together with the more than 300 Sisters of Providence.
Sister Su-Hsin currently ministers as a member of the Pastoral Care Team at Providence Health Care.
She began carving out her path to perpetual vows in 2002.
While in her native Taiwan – Sister Su-Hsin saw an advertisement regarding a “Come and See” weekend with the Sisters of Providence.
“I was attracted to the Sisters expression of, ‘God is love, mercy and justice,’” Sister Su-Hsin said. “I saw love, mercy and justice. That was the life I wanted.”
At the time, Sister Su-Hsin was working with abused children. She is a member of the Taiwanese tribe, Puyuma, an indigenous people in her native country.
But despite knowing she would need to transition to a whole new culture, she was ready to start her journey.
She left the United States for home, but came back and entered the postulancy in September 2004. Sister Su-Hsin professed first vows in 2007.
After professing first vows, she went back to Taiwan and studied theology. She also worked as a chaplain at a hospital.
On Sunday, Sister Su-Hsin made her life-long commitment by professing perpetual vows.
During the celebration, she wore a traditional tribal dress her mother made for her. Sister Su-Hsin said it took her mother the better part of a year to make the garment.
While Sister Su-Hsin has been in the Sisters of Providence community for 10 years, she is prepared for the next chapter of her journey.
“I can’t find the words to describe how I feel,” she said. “I make this commitment, the commitment to God, every day. I’ll never forget why I made this decision.”
Sister Su-Hsin, by the way, still has the copy of the advertisement that introduced her to the Sisters of Providence more than a decade ago. She carries it with her at all times.
Sisters of Providence General Officer Sister Jenny Howard, who is a liaison to the New Membership Team, said Sister Su-Hsin has spent the past year in Tertianship, the final formal period of initial formation.
“This is a special year,” Sister Jenny said. “Sisters continue their ministry, but they are focused on continued discernment for final preparation for vows. It’s a very important process taken very seriously.”
While Sister Su-Hsin’s path is nearing closure, Sister Arrianne’s is in the earlier stages.
On Sunday, Sister Arrianne professed first vows as a Sister of Providence.
While she currently lives in Indianapolis, Sister Arrianne hails from Germantown, Wis.
She just recently concluded her novitiate, a two-year formation program with the Sisters of Providence.
According to Sister Janice, during this first year of the novitiate program, the canonical novice focuses her time on studying scripture and spirituality, participating more deliberately in communal and private prayer, and continuing the discernment process of the call to religious life through a variety of programs, seminars and other projects.
The second year of the novitiate is referred to as the mission novice year. Novices live the everyday life of a fully professed sister during this time, but they have not yet professed vows as a member of the Congregation.
Sister Arrianne currently ministers as a teacher to toddlers at a child day care facility in Indianapolis.
“I work with 1-year-olds in their care and daily needs,” she said.
She added the two novitiate years were “very distinct.”
“The most recent year, my mission year, was a lot of transition,” Sister Arrianne said. “I moved into a new local community (a small house with other sisters). Prior to that, I was residing at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. I began my first real ministry experience within community.
“In addition to this ministry and some other preparation pieces for my future, I also had frequent conferences with my director and had a monthly book discussion where we focused specifically on the vows. I have also attended all the formation-related events at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and many in Indianapolis.”
Sister Arrianne said she would like to minister in the field of medicine.
Sisters of Providence Director of Novices Sister Janice Smith, who is also part of the New Membership Team, said the ceremony of the profession of vows began with the profession of first vows for Sister Arrianne.
During that part of the ceremony, Sisters of Providence Vicar Sister Lisa Stallings presented Sister Arrianne the Cross of the Sisters of Providence to wear as a sign of religious profession, her love of God and her commitment to the mission and community of the Sisters of Providence.
Then, Sister Su-Hsin professed perpetual vows. She received a ring from Sister Lisa to wear as a sign of her perpetual consecration to God and sign of her faith.
Sister Janice said that committing to religious life is a very different life commitment, and she admitted that she was “scared” when she professed first vows.
“I was ready to run,” she said. “I wanted to do it, but I was still scared. It’s a real change from my former life as a single business woman.”
Sister Janice entered the Sisters of Providence later in life. She had worked in the same business for more than decade before she made her decision.
“It was a different kind of change,” Sister Janice said. “The intensity of it was overwhelming.”
However, when Sister Janice professed perpetual vows, she said it was much different.
“That was much easier,” she said. “It was much more relaxed. I really knew at that point where I wanted to be.”
Sister Jenny added the length of time during formation is a benefit for women.
“The time is not rushed,” she said. “One has the opportunity to discern if this is the life she is called to.
We try to do that in an honest way because it is a life commitment, living the call of the gospel.”
Sister Jenny added the Sisters of Providence have accepted two more postulants, who will enter the community in the fall.
“We’re very blessed to have new members,” Sister Jenny said. “Our sisters are our greatest resources.”
“We are focused on women entering our community,” Sister Janice added. “It’s a community event.