Each monk’s journey to the monastery is unique – some short, some long. For Br. Luke Turner, his solemn profession is the culmination of a 30-year search – from the monastery, around the world, and back again.
In 2011, after a career as a senior vice president for MasterCard International, Br. Luke returned to the community that he had left in 1980. He made his lifetime commitment to monastic life, professing solemn vows December 12, 2015.
Br. Luke has taught in the school of business at Benedictine College, works in the Abbey Advancement Office, is the Abbey’s kitchen master, serves on committees in the Abbey, serves as financial secretary for the Benedictine College Knights of Columbus, and serves on a finance committee for the Abbot Primate that meets each March and August in Rome. At the heart of all of this is his monastic life of prayer.
“What drives my day is gathering with my brothers to pray the Liturgy of the Hours several times a day, attending Mass each and every day, and doing the assignments given to me by the Abbot,” Br. Luke said.
Br. Luke always felt a calling to be a monk but he didn’t know when to answer it.
Born in Concordia, Kan. by Milton and Thorene Turner, Br. Luke – baptized as Jeffrey Scott Turner – was the second of three children. From a young age, his mother said he was always active in the church, using his creativity.
“Back in the 70’s, when banners first became popular in churches, we would have to go get materials so that he could make banners for the church,” Thorene said.
Br. Luke attended Savior of the World Seminary High School, a prep-seminary for boys who were contemplating the priesthood.
After graduating in 1979, he attended Benedictine College as an English and Spanish major. Although he was working towards a degree, Br. Luke’s mother said he still didn’t know what he wanted. In 1981 he joined St. Benedict’s Abbey, living as a postulant.
“I lived in the Abbey during the spring semester of my sophomore year,” Br. Luke said. “Four of us entered the novitiate in August of that year.”
It was then that he received the name Luke in honor of his grandmother and godmother, Lucille. But as he journeyed through his novitiate year, Br. Luke felt a call away, and he ultimately decided to leave the monastery.
“I wasn’t sure this was the environment that I could do what I wanted to do,” he said. “My original plan was to leave for a year, go out into the world to get a taste for what that might be, and come back after a year.”
The monastic community helped him with setting a standard for his faith. “I knew that even though I was in the world, I needed to be engaged in something that helped the world become a better place,” Br. Luke said.
He attended Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., switched his major, and graduated in 1990 with a major in marketing and management. Companies were eager to hire the bilingual business major, and he began his journey up the corporate ladder.
For the next 22 years he was able to see the world working in over 42 countries and spending time living abroad. “I really enjoyed getting to experience so many different cultures,” he said. He placed his vocation on the back-burner and focused on his career.
His mother continued to believe in him – and he knew he always was meant for something different. “He traveled all around, had a wonderful life, but there was always that something missing, – he never married, he still had a strong faith,” Thorene said, “mom was still prayin’!”
After a long career with MasterCard, Br. Luke answered the call and returned to the Abbey 30 years to the day after leaving.
Br. Luke believes that his time in the world was not wasted. “We are not always sure of the faith journey that God puts us on. I had those experiences,” Br. Luke said.
After answering the call, Br. Luke was still faced with challenges. “Somedays I find it to be really a struggle,” he said. “Moving from my old lifestyle into a single room in the Abbey isn’t hard. It’s sacrificing some independence, not making quick decisions. Now I don’t make decisions by myself.”
Even his sister struggled with the idea at first, but gives him her blessing. “When he told me he was joining to the monastery, I thought ‘I’m losing a brother’ but I know I’m not losing a brother, I’m sharing him. I’m overjoyed to see that he has reached the place he wants to be,” said Linda, Br. Luke’s sister.
Br. Luke’s next challenge, and perhaps his greatest, was put in front of him by forces beyond his control – after just one year in the monastery, in the early summer of 2012, Br. Luke was diagnosed with colon cancer. The same disease that had taken his father’s life in 2007.
“It was when I was speaking with our health services department. We were talking about my father’s death of colon cancer some years before I entered, and she asked me when was the last time I had a colonoscopy. I told her it had been some years. So we both agreed, as a baseline, for me to do so. And that’s when I was diagnosed with cancer,” Br. Luke said.
His mother told him not to walk into the hospital with a glum face but to be strong because he was a man of faith.
Br. Luke went for a checkup after his last treatment and the receptionist didn’t know he had even had cancer.
“The receptionist said ‘where have you been? We used to see you every day here’ and I said, ‘Oh well I was going through cancer treatment, I’m done, I just came back for my check-up.’ She said ‘You’re kidding me, we always thought that you were a chaplain here.’ I was pleased to tell my mom that I had disguised the fact that I was in treatment every day,” Br. Luke said.
Br. Luke finished his last treatment on October 21, 2012.
“It was a terrible time for both him and me. His father died of colon cancer and it was so fresh in my mind. The Lord just put him through that trial and we came out on the other side,” Thorene said.
Today, Br. Luke knows he has made the right decision and is happy that he professed his solemn vows.
“This is where I’m supposed to be,” he said.
His dream is to be ordained to the priesthood to spread the message and to help people with their faith.
“It’s really nice to have someone who has such a wealth of experience behind him. Br. Luke just has such a tremendous heart that he brings to this family,” said Br. Placidus Lee. “He’s able to spread his love throughout the house by doing anything he is asked and going above and beyond.”
“Br. Luke has a great story. With a 30-year gap, you’d think that anybody else would have moved on. He was authentic to the call, he was always open to it,” said Fr. Simon Baker.
“He’s professional in where he comes from, but he is a prayerful man. I think a combination of seeking God, seeking the well-being of others, and being a man of the community, makes him a real treasure to the monastery,” said Fr. Meinrad Miller
“Br. Luke is an inspirational monk for me. To go from a successful career to an annual income of zero dollars and zero cents is pretty amazing,” said Fr. Jay Kythe.
“It’s a real riches to rags story,” Fr. Simon added, “where he had everything in the world that would make him happy and yet he said ‘You know what, there’s still more.’”