'Providence led me here'

Sister Arrianne Whittaker (third from left) with Sisters of Providence (from left) Anna Fan, Dina Bato, Corbin Hannah, Joni Luna, Tracey Horan and Emily TeKolste outside of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

Sister of Providence Arrianne Whittaker, 31, admits the love she feels for her sisters in community is everlasting.

“I have so much joy when I am with my sisters,” she said. “We love one another with our whole hearts. We may not always agree, and we certainly come from varied backgrounds. But at the end of the day, we love with one heart.”

Since professing first vows on June 29, 2014, Sister Arrianne said she has “experienced wide myriad of emotions.”

“I have discovered parts of myself that previously were unknown to me," she said. "I have been challenged to embrace transformation and trust in the process."

And she has learned to embrace her fear of change throughout this process as well.

“I don’t like change and get a stomach ache just thinking about it. But this journey has challenged me to embrace change as a gift and see it as an opportunity for growth and new life.”

Sister Arrianne’s journey to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana and the Community of the Sisters of Providence began after she volunteered for one year with the Congregation after graduating from Marquette University in 2009. She had plans to go to medical school the following year, but those plans were delayed.

“I felt a kinship with the spirit of the Woods and certainly grew to love Mother Theodore as the sisters do,” she said.

At the time, Sister Arrianne said, volunteers at the Woods all lived together and apart from the Congregation. However, unforeseen circumstances forced the volunteers to move into a residence hall with the sisters.

“Getting to live, pray and work with the sisters is really what sealed the deal for me,” Sister Arrianne said. “Providence led me here. The journey to choose to volunteer was nothing short of providential.”

Following her year of volunteerism, Sister Arrianne went to a dinner with then Sisters of Providence Vocation Director Sister Jenny Howard, who directly asked how she felt about the Congregation and a possible vocation.

“It was the only time in that year that I admitted to anyone else besides God and Mother Theodore that I knew in my heart I would be coming back to the Woods,” Sister Arrianne said. “But I needed to leave first to gain some life experience and work and live on my own, which I had never done before.”

While her journey to the community had some twists and turns, she knew where her heart was taking her.

“It felt exciting and terrifying all in one. On one hand, there was this amazing new adventure I was embarking on, it was unknown and unwritten, pregnant with possibility. On the other hand, I had no clue what this life would really ask of me.”

She completed the transition and her journey moved forward, as Sister Arrianne officially entered the Congregation on Jan. 4, 2012.

“Someone once told me that the fear of transformation is simply chaos on the wave of opportunity. I can say I have ridden and I’m still riding that wave and at times, it is exhilarating, and others it is very precarious. I guess that is why I am called to be a Sister of Providence. The journey has certainly called me to place my faith in providence.”

Even though she has become a woman religious, Sister Arrianne never gave up her desire to become a doctor. After engaging her sisters and other strong confidants, she was encouraged that she did not have to give up that dream. She could do both.

She is now entering her fourth year of medical school. She hopes to someday work in family practice, possibly in a rural community.

“I hope that my work brings God’s providence to all whom I serve in this world."

About Jason Moon

Jason Moon is Media Relations Manager for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. He can be reached at jmoon@spsmw.org or by phone at 812-535-2810.