November 3, 2017

Vocations Supplement

Providence sisters in formation find belonging, joy in religious life

By Jason Moon (Special to The Criterion)

For Providence Sisters Arrianne Whittaker and Emily TeKolste, choosing the path of a woman religious was really a matter of fit, to find where they truly belonged.

Both were looking for deeper, spiritual meaning in their lives. And they found it when they met the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“I know for me, I choose to discern religious life because when I met my community, there was a longing in me to learn more about who they were and what they were doing,” Sister Arrianne said. “I think a deep, even subconscious part of me knew that their story was intertwined with mine. It was like for the first time in my life, I felt like I truly fit.”

Sister Emily got to know the Sisters of Providence more personally through her work with the Catholic Worker community in Indianapolis.

“As I lived out my time at the Catholic Worker community and got to know the Sisters of Providence better, it started to become clear to me that the Sisters of Providence were the fit for me in the long term,” she said.

The Sisters of Providence motherhouse is located at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, 10 minutes northwest of downtown Terre Haute. They strive to collaborate with others to create a “more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy.”

They minister in 17 states, the District of Columbia and Asia. The Congregation was founded by Saint Mother Theodore Guérin in 1840.

While Sister Arrianne was born in Indianapolis, she grew up in Germantown, Wis. Her first encounter with the Sisters of Providence came while volunteering at the St. Ann Medical and Dental Services Clinic, now known as the Wabash Valley Health Center in Terre Haute. The clinic was a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence when Sister Arrianne arrived as a volunteer.

“It was an amazing experience, and indeed, quite a providential one, too,” Sister Arrianne said.

During that volunteer year, Sister Arrianne grew closer to the Sisters of Providence. Consequently, her life plans began to change, as she began to feel the spiritual pull to religious life.

Sister Arrianne, 30, said she felt a joy that she had not felt before.

“It is not always easy to live this life, and you may find yourself questioning from time to time, but this joy is everlasting,” she said. “It is this joy that feeds our lives of service, prayer and communion. And I believe that this joy is rooted in our lives of service to God’s people.”

Currently, Sister Arrianne is enrolled in the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Indianapolis.

Sister Emily, 29, also a native of Indianapolis, entered the community’s novitiate in August 2017. She said since coming to the congregation, she feels as if she has grown exponentially from a spiritual point of view.

“We are very intentional about trying to grow together, to learn from each other, to build relationships with each other,” Sister Emily said. “I love the support that the community allows us to provide for each other. We can dream together, celebrate and mourn together and build together better than we could do any of those things by ourselves.

“We can combine our skills and our efforts to be better than the sum of our parts.”

Sister Emily added that the continued inspiration she receives from other Sisters of Providence adds to the joy she feels regarding being part of the congregation.

“I have the opportunity to be a part of a community whose members inspire me to be better, excite me with the exemplary lives they’ve lived, and walk with me as I continue to discover who I am and how I am called to live my life,” Sister Emily noted.

“Plus, we’re a lot of fun!”

(Jason Moon is the media relations manager of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. For more information on the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, log on to, or call or text vocations director Providence Sister Editha Ben at 812-230-4771 or e-mail her at

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