May 18, 2018

A twin, a saint and grace lead young adult to Catholic faith

Jenna Knepper, who was received into full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass on March 31 at St. Joan of Arc Church in Indianapolis, smiles with her twin brother, Joseph Knepper, a seminarian for the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Diocese, after the Easter Mass on April 1 at St. Vincent De Paul Church in Fort Wayne. (Submitted photo)

Jenna Knepper, who was received into full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass on March 31 at St. Joan of Arc Church in Indianapolis, smiles with her twin brother, Joseph Knepper, a seminarian for the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Diocese, after the Easter Mass on April 1 at St. Vincent De Paul Church in Fort Wayne. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Nearly 1,500 years ago, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica were more than just twins. They were best friends. They shared their devout Catholic faith, and are believed to have spent long hours discussing religion and spirituality.

How apt, then, that Jenna Knepper, 27, chose St. Scholastica as her patron saint when she completed her initiation into the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass this year at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. The reason becomes clear as she shares her story.

(Related: Welcome, new Catholics)

“We were baptized Catholic,” says Knepper of her and her three siblings, including her twin brother Joseph. “But growing up, Mom didn’t take us to Mass much. She was a single mom. … We grew up not knowing much about Catholicism, or Christianity for that matter.”

When Knepper was a freshman at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, she became involved in Protestant ministries, Scripture studies and worship. So later in college when Joseph, who attended the University of Notre Dame, told her he was joining the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), she was dubious.

“To me that wasn’t compatible with what I was learning in the Protestant church,” she says. “I thought he was wrong. Faith alone, grace alone and Scripture alone—I was all in on that. I started praying for my brother out of concern for him entering RCIA.”

Yet she witnessed a “clear transformation in his life.” By the spring of 2016, he was accepted as a seminarian of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.

“I know my brother. I love my brother. He’s my best friend. And something curious was going on,” says Knepper. “He had a successful career. To see him discern the priesthood was incredible to witness.”

Like St. Benedict and St. Scholastic, the Knepper twins had “hundreds of conversations” about God and the Catholic faith. Through such discussions and through the witness of her brother and some Catholic friends, and “by grace,” says Knepper, “God slowly started to reveal to me the beauty of the sacraments, the real presence of the body and blood.”

She started worshiping at St. Joan of Arc Parish in 2016. But it was a trip a year ago to visit Joseph at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., that propelled her faith forward.

“To see these [seminarians] and God using them to witness to me, [the faith] become very real to me through my brother’s life and their lives,” says Knepper. “After that I discerned and kept praying about RCIA. I knew for a few months before RCIA that this was the journey for me.”

That journey was enhanced not by choosing St. Scholastica as her confirmation saint, but rather by St. Scholastica pursuing her, she says.

“It was St. Scholastica’s feast day [on Feb. 10],” Knepper recalls. “My brother sent me a reading about her feast day without realizing she was a twin. He said she reminded him of me.”

Shortly afterward, Melinda Rivelli, a pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc Parish, mentioned the saint to Knepper as a possible patron saint.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ” she says. “St. Scholastica was clearly pursuing me. Knowing her story—her brother was a monk, her love and devotion for her brother. The one thing known is she loved him so much. … [It’s] that sibling love that’s been so foundational to my faith calling.”

“Grace” is a word Knepper uses time and again when speaking of her faith journey.

“The things I questioned the most [about Catholicism] have been the most filled with grace,” she says of the sacrament of reconciliation and calling upon the Blessed Mother’s intercession.

“And then you have two twins growing up without a faith, but through God’s grace and his pursuit of us, leading each of us to the Church in our own unique way—it’s just grace.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!