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.

A person doesn’t become a Sister of Providence in a day. It is a years-long process. Below are the stages of formation a sister goes through after entering the Sisters of Providence.


When a woman is accepted into the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, she enters a 10- to 24-month postulancy period. During this time the woman learns about the Congregation, comes to know its mission and charism (spiritual gifts), and experiences the lifestyle of the Sisters of Providence.

“It’s an immersion experience into Catholic religious life with the Sisters of Providence. The women learn about community practices, traditions and ministries,” says Sister Marsha Speth, director of postulants.

Some components of the postulant experience include:

  • prayer, spiritual direction, theological reflections and an annual retreat
  • community living in the formation house
  • travel to and ministry experience with many Sisters of Providence
  • joint programs with other religious orders
  • weekly conferences with the director of postulants
  • book discussions
  • instructional sessions

Canonical novitiate

The second step in the initial formation process is the canonical novitiate. A woman spends this year at our motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She focuses on growing spiritually while continuing to develop a fuller understanding of the Sisters of Providence.

The canonical novitiate experience includes:

  • living in the novitiate community
  • weekly meetings with the director of novices
  • studying Congregation history
  • service ministry
  • prayer life — art and spirituality
  • spiritual direction
  • solitude, reflection
  • Liturgy/Mass
  • retreats
  • community prayer
  • participation in Congregation activities

Mission novice year

The mission novice year includes:

  • living in community with other Sisters of Providence
  • engaging in a specific ministry in keeping with the mission and spirituality of the Sisters of Providence.
  • living the life of a Sister of Providence – joining in communal prayer and the responsibilities of membership, including participating in Congregation activities and taking part in a Local Government Unit (LGU).
  • building on the foundations laid in the postulant and canonical novice years, with focus on reading, reflection and discussions on religious life and vows.
  • participating in spiritual enrichment opportunities. These include personal and communal prayer, monthly spiritual direction, periodic solitude days, theological reflection, liturgies of the Church and an annual retreat.
  • participating in community-building activities such as communal prayer, household tasks, meetings, and community events and celebrations.
  • continuing to meet with the novice director who helps explore and assist with the integration process into the local community, the Congregation, prayer life, ministry experiences, workshops, self-understanding and day-to-day living as a Sister of Providence.

Temporary profession

Following the mission novice year, the sister in formation professes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with the Sisters of Providence. This temporary profession lasts from three to six years. While continuing in ministry, temporarily professed sisters:

  • develop a personal plan for growth and development in religious life
  • attend regular meetings with an SP mentor
  • participate in Congregation events and activities
  • complete annual evaluations; and renew profession of vows

Tertian year

This is the final stage of formation for a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The temporarily professed sister requests tertianship. When approved, in addition to continuing her ministry, the sister participates in a 30-day retreat to prepare to take her final vows. The year ends with the sister professing perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence.