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Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, has Thorene Turner’s gentle persistence to thank for its new Director of College Ministry, Father Luke Turner OSB.
Thorene never stopped praying for her son’s vocation for more than 30 years. Her prayers were answered this summer as she watched her son be ordained to the priesthood at St. Benedict’s Abbey, located on the college’s campus.
Father Luke will lead ministry at Benedictine College, where he attended decades ago.
“I am overjoyed at being ordained and am excited to serve the students of Benedictine College!” Fr. Luke told J.D. Benning at Kansas Monks.
“This day has been a long time coming,” Thorene told well-wishers at the reception following her son’s ordination, “a day that I have never stopped praying for.”
Father Luke told Kansas Monks how his mother nurtured his vocation from the beginning.
“As a kid, we always had the Catholic Digest, so I started writing to the religious orders that were listed in the back, just to gather information as a kid would do,” Father Luke said. “I had this wild dream to be a missionary in Africa.”
Thorene enrolled her son in what was the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Kansas at the time, Savior of the World Seminary. She introduced him to the Abbey, as well.
“My mom used to put me on a bus to visit the Abbey, and I was always greeted by Fr. Regis and took part in monastic prayer,” Fr. Luke said. “My interest grew and after graduation. I came to Benedictine College as an ‘Abbey student’ taking courses, living in the dorms, and praying with the monks. I entered the novitiate in 1981 but felt like I needed to experience the world, so I left for what I thought would be a couple of years, but the time was never quite right to return to the Abbey.”
In fact, Turner climbed the corporate ladder for 30 years, starting with a job at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City and after many new jobs and promotions later ended up a Senior Vice President for Mastercard.
In Dallas, Texas, he doing volunteer work for a Dallas, Texas, parish.
“Our Pastor had a policy that all the volunteers had to do a weekly Holy Hour,” said Luke. “I agreed, but it was in those Holy Hours that God was calling me back to the Abbey and ultimately, the priesthood.”
His mother visited the Abbey with him in 2008. “I saw a spark in him,” Thorene told Kansas Monks, “there was something in him that felt at home at the Abbey.”
The spark became a fire. He became Brother Luke in 2011, and was quickly embraced by the community. and mother and son were back in the Abbey in 2019 at his ordination.
“Brother Luke has a great story,” said Benedictine College Chaplain, Father Simon Baker. “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.”
“Brother Luke is an inspirational monk for me,” said Father Jay Kythe OSB, director of novices at the Abbey. “To go from a successful career to an annual income of zero dollars and zero cents is pretty amazing.”
Now, eight years later, after seminary training, Brother Luke stood with his mother once again at the Abbey, now as Father Luke.
After the bishop anoints a new priest’s hands at his ordination, they are bound and cleaned with a manutergium (in Latin, manu means hand and tergium means towel), which is used to soak up the chrism oil.
It is customary for a new priest to present the manutergium to his mother, who keeps it throughout her lifetime and is buried with it.
According to tradition, when Jesus asks her, “I have given you life. What have you given to me?”
She hands him the manutergium, saying, “I have given you my son as a priest,” and he welcomes her into paradise.
Father Luke presented Thorene the cloth at the end of his ordination, but was too overcome with emotion to describe the tradition to the congregation.
The priest and his mother embraced at the end of a long vocational journey matching a mother’s prayers with a son’s self-gift.
“I’m so proud of my son and know that he is going to be a great priest,” Thorene said.