LA CONNER – Julie Turner returned home this summer to Sacred Heart Parish — where she was confirmed and once was an altar server — to celebrate her first profession of vows as a Daughters of St. Paul sister.
Now named Sister Julie Marie Benedicta — Sister Benedicta for short — she shared with Sacred Heart parishioners her love for prayer, nourished by lectio divina; reflections based on sacred readings; and vignettes about the founder of her congregation.
“I’m just very excited about this vocation,” Sister Benedicta said in an interview. The Daughters of St. Paul are known as “media apostles,” spreading the Gospel through social media, print media and other forms of communication. On social media, they’re known as #MediaNuns.
“The Lord continues to surprise me with all the things he puts in my path,” Sister Benedicta said of her vocation. That path began at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, where she got involved in Catholic Campus Ministry in 2003. But it was during a Daughters of St. Paul workshop in Florida, Sister Benedicta said, that she felt something deep inside her responding to their message.
She wondered if God could be calling her to the religious life, but wasn’t ready to explore the possibility. Instead, she continued working in campus ministry, and attended two retreats offered by the Pauline sisters.
After graduating from Central, she worked as a youth minister at St. Joseph Parish in Kennewick, where she lived in the parish’s former convent. While making a sandwich one day in 2012, the light glowing from the chapel lamp caught her eye. It was as if something inside her burst into flame, Sister Benedicta said: “I felt like Jesus was saying he desired to give me a gift — and I was running from that gift.”
The time for running was over. The next day, she phoned the congregation and began the process of applying. She became a postulant in 2013.
Sister Benedicta, right, and her local superior, Sister Tracey Matthia Dugas, put on a Daughters of St. Paul book fair at St. Peter Parish in Covington, Louisiana, Sept. 16-17. Photo: Courtesy Sister Benedicta Turner
During postulancy, she lived in the Pauline community in St. Louis, where she learned about the congregation’s mission and discerned how it fit with her gifts. “Does it resonate with me? That’s what postulancy is all about,” Sister Benedicta said.
As a child, she wanted to become a writer, and the Daughters of St. Paul operate a dozen Pauline Books & Media centers around the U.S. as part of their mission. But beyond that, she was eager to help others learn more about Jesus as a person. “We’re not teaching in the classroom,” Sister Benedicta said, “but we are teaching in that the classroom is our whole world.”
The Daughters of St. Paul can be found on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and their blog, as well as their web store, where they sell books and other religious materials. Their brick-and-mortar stores include chapels where visitors can pray.
“These centers are like centers of light, a place where people are connected with God,” said Pauline Sister Carmen Christi Pompei, the congregation’s novice director.
Sister Benedicta, who professed her vows July 1 in Boston, said in an email that her name refers to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), “to whom I have a strong devotion. She went by Benedicta in everyday settings, so I have kept that in her honor.”
She is now working in the New Orleans area as her congregation’s coordinator of outreach and evangelization, bringing religious publications to parishes, conferences and events. After renewing her vows annually for five or six years, Sister Benedicta will profess permanent vows.
“When the Lord said he had a gift he wanted to give me, it [this calling] was a gift,” she said.