November 1, 2019

2019 Vocations Awareness Supplement

‘California girl’ embraces call to religious life at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Providence Sister Jessica Vitente, right, meets with Providence Sister Marceline Mattingly, the oldest member of the community, after entering the congregation’s postulancy in September 2018. (Submitted photo)

Providence Sister Jessica Vitente, right, meets with Providence Sister Marceline Mattingly, the oldest member of the community, after entering the congregation’s postulancy in September 2018. (Submitted photo)

By Jason Moon (Special to The Criterion)

ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS—For a long time, God tugged at Jessica Vitente’s heart strings.

In 2015, after an encounter with Providence Sister Editha Ben at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Pomona, Calif., native took God up on an offer and decided to pay a visit to the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in St. Mary-of-the-Woods in western Indiana.

After the weekend retreat she attended there, Jessica continued to discern the life of a woman religious. She entered the Sisters of Providence as a postulant on Sept. 10, 2018.

“I was touched and inspired by the women in initial formation and the many sisters who responded with great love and generosity to a call that is bigger and greater than themselves,” Sister Jessica said. “I intentionally explored the idea of religious life because I knew God was tugging. As I faithfully followed, there was peace and joy that led to happiness … so I trusted, surrendered and followed Jesus.”

During her first year with the Sisters of Providence, Jessica hoped to sharpen her prayer life. She said she was successful.

“I had the opportunity to get to know myself a little more deeply,” she said. “I have been able to work on areas of my life that I deeply desired to mold but never made a priority. … I have been able to learn creative ways to live a contemplative lifestyle, through a buffet of various prayer styles—an all-you-can-choose buffet!

“These and many other opportunities have helped me on the way to becoming the best version of myself.”

During the yearlong postulancy, Jessica continued to discern her decision while also continuing to grow within herself. Sister Jessica already had an associate degree in accounting from Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., and a bachelor’s degree in human development from California State University, Long Beach.

God kept tugging. And Jessica was listening.

“Postulant life is an opportunity for long-term coming and seeing, as well as tasting and hearing, what religious life is about as a young woman in the 21st century,” Sister Jessica said. “It was an experience that welcomed me to jump into a new lifestyle with both feet.

“I left three decades of a ‘California-girl’ lifestyle. It was difficult, but through the grace of God, I was able to build new relationships.”

Living with the Sisters of Providence also brought a new perspective to life, Sister Jessica said.

“The experiences of community living have taught me much,” she said. “How to discover what my limitations are and how I can make healthy choices ... .

“I am what I am, and I am who God made me to be. And I am loved and accepted by my sisters because I belong!”

On Aug. 3, she was received into the novitiate, the next step in formation with the Sisters of Providence. There are two stages in the novitiate program.

In the first year, Sister Jessica, as a “canonical novice,” will deepen her relationship with her God through intense study of Scripture, prayer, theology and the vowed life, among other topics. She will also delve more deeply into the Catholic faith, religious life and the history and traditions of the Sisters of Providence.

The second year will be her mission novice year in which she will enter into a particular ministry, often away from the campus of the motherhouse.

She readily admits that hearing her new title “Sister Jessica” sometimes sounds unfamiliar to her.

“When I hear Sister Jessica, my name rings differently in my ear,” she said. “I am still adjusting and allowing myself to go through the process of owning the title. Surely, it will take more time for it to blossom.”

(Jason Moon is the media relations manager of the Sisters of Providence. To learn more about the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, visit


See more stories from our 2019 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Local site Links: