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Lead by Faith

Never judge a book by its cover

By: Tracy Kim

4 May 2019

Bookstores across the nation are suffering from closures and a decline in retail sales, but one bookstore chain continues to grow and become stronger as technology continues to change.


As part of a Catholic religious’ congregation named the Society of St. Paul, Pauline Books and Media has been in business since the 1900s. Their Hawaii chain has been resilient for 45 years, despite the drop in sales and recent theft.


“This bookstore is outstanding,” Elizabeth Kim, a frequent customer, said. “There’s a lot to buy. When you look at the bookstore, there’s lot of great materials. It’s a good bookstore.”


Sales from all bookstores-religious, trade, college, chain stores and others have dropped to $1.1 million, that is at least a 10.6 percent drop from last year, according to the American Booksellers Association.


The Online Education Database attributes the decline of physical bookstores to online e-books, Amazon, and other online platforms that sell electronic books.


Pauline Books and Media, a non-profit organization that is not tax-exempt, employees says their faith helped them to stay in business.

Sister Joane sharing her wisdom.

“Prayers, prayers, prayers, prayers” said Sister Mary Joane Gepitulan. “We offer everything up to God. We entrust everything to Him and we do what we can in the reality that we live in. We face challenges, problems, and like any other human beings.”


The bookstore is located on Bishop street, near the Catholic church, Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. They are normally open from Monday to Saturday.


“It’s pretty busy actually,” said Gepitulan. “It’s like a regular retail bookstore, but as you see it’s different because it’s all about God to diffuse the word to bring Christ to world, so the people could come to Him.”

As part of their mission, people are welcome to talk to the nuns for guidance and prayers. Customers are even welcome and encouraged to use their chapel, which is located in the bookstore.


With the bookstore so close to the cathedral, many people use the church as a focal point to help them find the location of the bookstore.


“My husband heard there’s a basilican here,” Theresa Romero, a tourist from California, said. “It’s nice. They have what we need. Because we want to bring back something have Hawaiian touch on it. And St. Damien is a saint of Hawaii.”


Each of Pauline Books and Media bookstores across the country is run by nuns, known as the Daughters of St. Paul. Since they are women, the nuns take on the feminine name, “Pauline.” The name Pauline has its different forms and way of saying in each country.

At the Honolulu chapter, there are four Pauline sisters who runs and looks out for the store. Their names are Sisters Susan Miriam Wolf, Mary Joane Gepitulan, Diane Leonard Kraus, and Maria Joseph Petrill.


Their typical day begins at 6:30 a.m. with mass at Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. Mass is around 30 minutes, and once it’s over, the sisters return home to clean the store front. Then they have breakfast, prayer time, and they each begin their way own way of readying the store for the new day.

Interesting Fact: Based on their website, St Paul USA, St Paul was founded by Blessed James Alberione in 1914. Blessed Alberione had a passion for the modern media technology.

Through technology, Blessed Alberione hopes that the congregation can use any types of modern media-television, press, movies, the internet and any other means of mass communication to publish any materials to help personal devotions, but more importantly to spread the word of God.

Each sister has their own job within the store. Gepitulan begins her day at the store placing orders for books to their headquarters in Boston and Kraus watches the store and helps the customers when the store opens at about nine in the morning.

Despite their jobs being different, they each manage the store as a team and as a family connected through their faith and God.

“Our vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience,” said Gepitulan. “We give our whole lives to God. Not everyone is called to be a religious sister.”

Pauline Bookstore and Media connects the traditional vows that the nuns take and mix it with modern day communication like Facebook to market their stores and faith.

Interesting Fact: Pauline Books and Media has a headquarter located in Boston. It is the main place that the stores from other parts of America call in to request for more books and other items.

Interesting Fact: From their website, it has stated that St. Paul and Pauline Bookstores and Media are active in editorial and bookstores, journalism, cinematography, television, radio, audiovisual, multimedia, telematics. They also have centers of studies, research, information, and animation.

“We have the marketing,” said Gepitulan. “In a sense we market Jesus’ word in a very digital, that’s our mission. Using the means of communication, whatever is possible to bring Christ to others.”


The sisters or nuns have credited their faith and God for helping their store to continue on throughout the challenging and changing of times.

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