October 28, 2016

2016 Vocations Supplement

Postulant finds ‘kindred spirits’ among Sisters of Providence

Franciscan Sisters Shirley Gerth, left, and Donna Prickel rely on the values of St. Francis—and each other—as they serve the archdiocese as parish life coordinators in the Batesville Deanery. Sister Shirley serves in St. John the Baptist Parish in Osgood and St. Maurice Parish in Napoleon. Sister Donna ministers at Immaculate Conception Parish in Milhousen. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Franciscan Sisters Shirley Gerth, left, and Donna Prickel rely on the values of St. Francis—and each other—as they serve the archdiocese as parish life coordinators in the Batesville Deanery. Sister Shirley serves in St. John the Baptist Parish in Osgood and St. Maurice Parish in Napoleon. Sister Donna ministers at Immaculate Conception Parish in Milhousen. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By Jason Moon (Special to The Criterion)

SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS—The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is a religious community of Catholic women religious founded by St. Mother Theodore Guérin in 1840.

They collaborate with others through prayer, education, service and advocacy. Through their ministries, the mission of the congregation is to honor Divine Providence, and to further God’s loving plan through devotion to works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people.

Those collaborations include working with Providence Associates, women and men of faith who choose to have a relationship with the Sisters of Providence. Providence Associates commit to sharing their own unique gifts and talents with others while walking with the Sisters of Providence. Currently, there are more than 200 Providence Associates living out Providence spirituality in their daily lives across the United States and in Taiwan.

The Sisters of Providence continue to accept new members to the community and have done so in recent years, including Sister Dina Bato, who is currently preparing to profess perpetual vows, as well as temporary professed Sisters Hannah Corbin, Arrianne Whittaker and Sister Joni Luna. In addition, mission novice Sisters Tracey Horan and Anna Fan are also in formation.

In September, Indianapolis native Emily TeKolste was welcomed by the Sisters of Providence as a postulant.

Emily took part in the ritual of entrance, as she knocked on the door at Providence Hall. She was greeted by then-General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson. From there, Emily was taken to the parlor of Providence Hall for a prayer service, a blessing and the official welcome into the congregation.

Emily’s connection to the Sisters of Providence stems from Sister Tracey, who entered the congregation in 2014.

“When I encountered the Sisters of Providence, I had just moved into the Indianapolis Catholic Worker community,” Emily said. “I had moved there because I was searching for a way to get out of the suburbs where I grew up and into a more economically marginalized community. I was looking for deeper friendships, since most of my friends from high school and college lived in different states.

“I was looking for a way to connect in a deeper way with the world around. I wasn’t looking for religion or religious life in any way, but through interacting with Tracey, I began to feel the nudge to seek more information about religious life. I thought I’d find what I wanted to find at the Catholic Worker—and I did in almost every way you can name. But something didn’t feel right.”

Emily added her knowledge of White Violet Center for Eco-Justice—a ministry of the Sisters of Providence—also played a role in her decision.

“I was particularly interested in that because of my background in sustainability issues and work in sustainable agriculture,” she said. “As I got to know the Sisters of Providence, I felt comfortable with almost everyone I met. I felt that they were kindred spirits, and I enjoyed spending time with them.”

Emily said that, for her, the call to enter religious life became final in 2015.

“I was visiting my sister in Guatemala, and I found myself at one point overcome with the sensation that I was going to be a sister and I was at complete peace with it,” she said. “At the time, I had started the Providence Associate program, but switched gears toward exploring religious life.”

Emily said she had scheduled a visit with another religious community after returning from Guatemala. After that visit, she then met with Providence Sister Carole Kimes.

“I asked if I could enter into a deeper discernment process with the Sisters of Providence while still exploring other communities,” Emily said. “She asked if I needed to continue searching, or if I could just trust that God would reveal to me if I was on the wrong path.

“So, we called Sister Editha Ben and formally requested that I be able to start the process of working with a discernment guide.” Sister Editha is the Sisters of Providence’s vocations director.

After a year in the postulancy, Emily will be eligible to enter into the first year of the novitiate. It is at that point when she will receive the title of sister.

The Sisters of Providence are still welcoming new members on an annual basis.
 

(Jason Moon is the media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. For more information about the order, visit www.spsmw.org.)

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