Young at Heart

S. Linda Markway with members of Fontbonne Univeristy's Wind Leaders, trained upperclassmen who welcome and help incoming first-year students transition to the school.

For Sister Linda Markway, an educator for 30 years and a vocation minister for seven, interacting with young people as been her norm. You could say their contagious energy rubbed off on her. But those who know her have always described her as “young at heart.”

Since 2015, S. Linda has combined her contagious energy for young people with the CSJ charism in her position as director of Mission Stewardship at CSJ-sponsored Fontbonne University in St. Louis. She’s a presence on campus, witnessing the mission of the sisters to all whom she encounters.

Each day, S. Linda spends time in the dining hall with students. She describes how students gather there not by gender, ethnicity or religion like they might on other campuses. It’s a mashup that crosses all demographics. And for many of the students, she is the only Catholic sister they have ever met or known.

The students know that when they see her, a heart-to-heart hug is imminent. The outcome: “The students know that someone loves them," she says. And S. Linda is returned the favor. “They do that so naturally. I’m young at heart as a result of the engagement with them.”

Isabel Hotop, Class of 2018, says that S. Linda is “amazing,” having a busy schedule, yet never too busy to serve her neighbor. “One of my favorite things that she does is her ‘rounds’ on campus handing out treats, creating relationships with people, and making them smile. Everyone on campus knows and loves her,” she says. “She lives and breathes the charism of the CSJs.

S. Linda with Dr. Leslie Doyle, director of service, diversity and social justice at Fontbonne

She does campus ministry, liturgies, retreats, prayer groups and service days. She plans and oversees the Catch the Fire initiation ceremony for freshman and the sending ceremony for the graduates.

She also builds relationships with alumni, from talking on the phone to long-time legacy alums to helping execute the first-ever “Senior Prom” fundraising event that was held this year. With 48 percent of prom attendees being first-time alum participants, “that was a big improvement to our friendship base,” she says.

Yet her true calling is with young people and her admiration for today’s youth is strong. She doesn’t see millennials as the stereotypical “me” generation, but as a group that wants to make a difference.

“The future can be a very scary place. These kids are not waiting for someone to fix problems, like school shootings. They are doing something about it themselves,” she says. “They want to hear someone say, ‘You already are making a difference.’”

She says, "I may not always understand them, but because of them, I am not afraid. I walk with them. They are more open to difference than my generation was. I am also a student learning from them. I am getting hope and there’s nothing more gratifying than that.”