By SISTER JESSICA VITENTE
A VIEW FROM CAMPUS
I’ve been asked how it feels to profess first vows.
Do I feel different?
What was it like?
It will soon be five weeks since I professed first vows as a Sister of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. I feel joyfully at peace with having proclaimed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Providence. I’m excitedly living the mission stated in our constitutions as: “...to honor Divine Providence and further God’s loving plans by devoting myself to works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people.”
I met the Sisters of Providence at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, in 2015. I went to my first Come and See weekend retreat at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, later that fall. I met so many wonderful and beautiful retired sisters as well as other sisters who were near my own age. I remember going back home and reflecting on the experience. I realized I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I wanted to live life to its fullness in this counter-cultural lifestyle. As our foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin says, “This is the path traced by Providence. And I follow it!”
In the past three years of initial formation with the Sisters of Providence, I have lived life fully. I have experienced several turning points and I have been gifted the opportunity to learn how to pause and live in a contemplative way. I have been given opportunities I never imagined, such as traveling the Midwest and exploring this beautiful part of creation. I’ve taught English as a second langue to men in jail. I’ve met with many young women religious – habited and not – near my own age to have conversations on nonviolence and social justice issues interconnected to the Catholic church. I have learned to deeply listen to God’s invitations and be responsive with my mind, my heart, my body, and my soul so that I can really connect with the Divine. My formation process allows me to bring the reign of God anywhere and everywhere I walk — to the grocery store and the gas station. To the jail, community college or university. To the airport. To the hiking trail, beach or museum. I am now better able to allow God to work through me.
I say yes to following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps. I have so many hopes for the future, my own and that of future generations. I hope for gender equality and for racial equality. I pray for safety for migrants and justice for the imprisoned. I work toward the abolition of the death penalty and for more educational opportunities for people in need. I pray for less physical, emotional and mental violence against ourselves and each other. As Saint Mother Theodore Guerin said, “Have confidence in that Providence that so far has never failed us.”
I say YES to a life as a Sister of Providence because I have found the treasure of a community who will unconditionally love, accept and support me. I have found a community that God truly created me to be part of even through the challenges. As Saint Mother Theodore wrote, “No one will ever love you as your old Mother Theodore does.”
The days since I professed first vows on Aug. 14 have been filled with grace. The movement to being a vowed member of this community doesn’t feel different or fabricated. It feels natural and organic. I am simply striving to be the best version of myself. To bring the light of Christ to the young adults at University of Evansville and neighboring local communities in my ministry as campus minister. And doing so as a newly vowed member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods gives me a wonderful preparation and support system to live out God’s mission entrusted to me.
Sister Jessica Vitente, SP, a native of Pomona, California, entered the Sisters of Providence in September of 2018. She currently ministers as the Catholic campus minister for the Newman Center serving students at the University of Evansville.