From MasterCard to monastery

A journey from the corporate world to community life


by Kirsten Antonacc
Special to the Leaven

“Knock, knock.”

Jeffrey Turner answered the door and let the appraiser in.  Turner’s real estate agent was running late, so he invited the appraiser to look around until she arrived and went back to work in his office.

The appraiser entered the kitchen, his eyes drawn to the stunning redwood cabinets set over a deep, speckled granite countertop.

In the living room, he found an arrangement of furniture whose richly colored fabric contrasted with the black and white prints on the wall. High ceilings, a Jacuzzi in the bathroom — anyone watching might have chuckled as a series of expressions chased across the appraiser’s face, his mouth dropping open more than once.

“What on earth does this man do to have such a nice house?” the appraiser wondered.

Finally, he could not resist.

“Mr. Turner, your house is really beautiful,” said the appraiser. “I mean, I’ve appraised many houses and this one is just . . . it’s amazing!  Can I ask what you do for a living?”

“Thank you,” Turner responded politely. “I am a senior vice president of Master- Card. And my best friend’s wife is an interior designer, so she’s responsible for making everything look so nice.”

“Oh, I see,” said the appraiser, nodding. “So, why do you want to sell your house exactly?  I don’t know many people who would want to leave a place like this.”

“Do you want the truth?” asked Turner. “Yes,” the appraiser answered, even more interested now.

“Well, the reason I’m selling my house is because I am a Catholic and plan to enter a monastery,” said Turner. “In doing so, I will give up my possessions, including the house.”

Amazed and excited, the appraiser replied, “You’re freaking me out!  Now I’m not religious or anything, but as soon as I touched your doorknob, I knew there was a presence in this house!”

This senior executive from the payments industry now goes by “Brother Luke.”  And that house, lovely though it had been, was just a house.

God was calling him to a home.

Born to a Catholic family in Concordia in 1961, Turner was the second of three children: Doug was his older brother and Linda was their younger sister.  Their father’s job with the railroad required them to move to Kansas City when they were high-school age, so Brother Luke attended Savior of the World in Kansas City, Kan., a boarding, prep seminary high school, intended typically for young men with some inclination toward the diocesan priesthood.

The first time the young Turner met a Benedictine monk was at age 15 when St. Benedict’s Abbey vocation director Father Regis Hickey visited the seminary. Turner would go on to visit the abbey in Atchison and fall in love with the life. After Savior, he attended Benedictine College in Atchison, where he would major in Spanish and English.

After two years, he entered the novitiate on Aug. 15, 1981. But seven months later, he left.

“I’d gone through Catholic schools all my life and then came here,” he said much later. “I wondered what the other side was like.”

Turner went on to earn a degree in marketing and management at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.

Offered jobs by both MasterCard and Visa, Turner chose MasterCard, and began a 25-year career in the payment industry.

That career led him first to Chicago. But his employers quickly found a way for Turner to put his Spanish to good use, and he spent the next several years traveling between Miami and São Paulo, Brazil, for the company.

His next stop was New York, where he eventually became responsible for all customer relations in the U.S. market.

Finally, in 2008, Turner moved back to the international side of things, where he worked primarily in global markets that held opportunities for expanding business relationships, such as with India and China.

But wherever Turner lived, he always made it a point to become active in his parish community. In Dallas, he belonged to a parish run by the Vincentian Fathers. There, the greatest need was for volunteers to serve the people off the street. Turner helped out at the front desk, since he spoke Spanish, and assisted in the distributions held at the food pantry that the parish operated.

In 2010, a prestigious opportunity with a company with an initial public offering arose. Ready to accept the offer, Turner identified the moment the offer fell through as his “aha moment.”  In his mind, life was perfect: “I have a great corporate job with a senior standing and can serve others through my work in the parish.”

What more could a guy want?

The offer falling through forced him to take a step back and think for a minute, however. He knew MasterCard would move him again soon. But where should he really be relocating, he wondered.

Meanwhile, God kept quietly, patiently nagging at him.

Finally, Turner decided to come back to Atchison to visit the monks. Upon arriving at the monastery, said Turner, he had his answer.

“I knew I was supposed to be there . . . because I felt at home,” he said.

So the world traveler and successful businessman proceeded to sell his house and his belongings, and came home to St. Benedict’s Abbey in August 2011.

He entered the novitiate on Dec. 7 of that year, and professed first vows a year later.

But it was as he entered the novitiate that he really gave away the final possession tying him to his globe-trotting years with MasterCard — his name.

At which point, the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey once again said goodbye to Jeffrey Turner.

And welcomed — with open arms — Brother Luke.

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