Jefferson City native Sister Linda Markway started out wondering what God could give to her.
It took her a long time to figure out what He wanted her to give to Him.
“God gave me this life for the purpose of sharing it,” said Sr. Linda, who’s celebrating her 25th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Sr. Linda is the second of seven children born to Francis and Delores (Renkemeyer) Markway, who are now deceased.
She grew up on the east side of the Capital City, graduating from Immaculate Conception School and Helias Catholic High School.
Her family frequently knelt down to pray with and for one another.
“Our knees got sore!” said Sr. Linda. “We were so happy when Mom and Dad put carpet on the floor.”
Recognizing young Linda’s early interest in teaching, her father converted the coal bin in the basement of their home to a classroom.
“Teaching was always in my blood,” she said. “According to my brothers and sisters, I was teaching at about age 10. I had a little blackboard and would collect the leftover chalk at the end of the school year, and I would help my siblings with their school work.”
She befriended many of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVIs) who taught her at I.C. School.
“I admired them because they were so mysterious and kind and always seemed to be so happy,” she said.
After high school, she decided to give religious life a try, entering the CCVI novitiate at San Antonio, Texas, in 1968.
She did not know whether she wanted to be a sister, but she did want to be a teacher, and the sisters offered her a good education.
She eventually determined that religious life was not for her, leaving the congregation before professing vows.
“And for about 20 years, I took my good ol’ time running away from what God was wanting me to do,” she said. “Apparently, I was still being called to religious life, but I didn’t know it at the time.
“Or maybe I just didn’t want it at the time.”
Sr. Linda taught in St. Louis for a few years before returning to San Antonio and meeting the man she thought she would marry.
They were engaged for a couple of years.
“I was in love and felt loved by this man,” she said. “I had also heard from a lot of people that I would be a good mother.”
She was content and at peace with where life was taking her until she received disturbing news from St. Louis.
Incarnate Word Sister Patricia Ann Kelley, who had been the CCVI vocation director during Sr. Linda’s time there, had taken up ministry to the poor.
Sr. Pat was murdered in her office on Sept. 27, 1987.
“I went to her funeral,” said Sr. Linda, “and from that point on, I knew I could not get married until I got this ‘religious life thing’ out of my system.”
She and her fiancé had some heated discussions before agreeing that she needed some time to discern.
She contacted several religious orders and congregations, most advising her that she was too old or probably too set in her ways.
“I was 40,” she noted. “Not as many communities were accepting delayed vocations as are doing so now.”
She crossed paths with a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) whom she had worked with in the early 1970s.
That sister said, “Linda, yes, please come and continue your discernment with us.”
“And I felt right at home with these women from the very get-go,” said Sr. Linda. “But I still kept dragging my feet.”
God remained faithful and persistent, sending the right people to keep challenging and nudging her.
“I was fortunate in that the people in my life could see that I was unsettled, that I seemed to be searching for something,” she said.
She had acquired a comfortable life that she felt free to hold onto or give up, depending on what God wanted for her.
“I think the more ways we come to know ourselves, come to understand how we are made in the image and likeness of God, the greater opportunity we have to love ourselves as God loves us,” she said.
Sr. Linda entered the CSJs at their motherhouse in St. Louis in 1995 and became a novice in 1996.
Several family members were concerned that she was making a mistake.
But on the day she professed first vows, one of her brothers said, “Now I get it.”
“He saw in me a joy that he had never seen before,” Sr. Linda recalled. “I felt a joy that I couldn’t express with words. It was so complete, so full, so radiant.”
That joy has driven and validated her life and work as a sister.
Sr. Linda’s mother’s favorite prayer was to reassure God that “nothing is going to happen to me today that You and I cannot handle together.”
“And that has become the reality of my own life,” said Sr. Linda. “God and I are doing this in partnership.”
Her novice director was fond of telling her, “Linda, get out there and make God look good today.”
“That is my job,” Sr. Linda declared. “And I can do it because I have come to know God in Whose own image I have been created.”
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in education administration, she taught and served as a principal until 2001.
She spent three years as an assistant to the Service Extension Department for the Salvation Army’s Central USA Territory, then four years as an administrative assistant for Research and Development Services at Saint Louis University.
She then served for two years as a co-director for CORE, a CSJ service program for young women, followed by four years as vocation director for the CSJ St. Louis Province.
She cofounded the Fiat House, an intentional living environment for young women in discernment.
From 2015 to 2020, she served as director of mission stewardship at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, taking on additional duties in campus ministry in 2018.
In any community she’s been a part of, she could be counted on to tackle basic home repairs.
At Fontbonne, she would gather a few students, borrow a truck and help people move on short notice. They called it, “One Nun and a Truck.”
One of her favorite roles in the community is “Jammin’ Josie,” the DJ for gatherings of CSJ sisters and associates, providing entertainment at jubilee and anniversary celebrations of family and friends.
“That’s what CSJ is all about,” she said. “We ‘serve the dear neighbor without distinction.’ There are no strangers among us.” CSJ’s are called to do all of which women are capable.
She retired in 2020 and currently volunteers in campus ministry and advancement at Fontbonne.
Discerning and deciding
Sr. Linda has contact with many young people who are afraid of making wrong decisions and not being able to get back on track.
She hopes her own story helps them turn to God with confidence, hope and trust.
“There’s just no telling what can happen when you decide to get out of the way and let God, Who loved you first and loves you forever, be in control,” she said.
She loves the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, and she loves who she’s becoming with help from God and her community.
“I want others to find the happiness that I have found,” she said. “Not necessarily to be sisters, but to be able to separate that process of discerning and deciding, which is where the difference came for me.”
She described discernment as an ongoing, intentional process of reflecting on how best to serve God in every situation, with the help of the people she’s with.
“Every morning, I renew my vows, recommit myself to this life and try to discover how to live it to the best of my ability,” she said.
The women she lives with now and the ones she’s been in community with in the past have all been part of the process.
“Thanks to them, I’m living more intentionally now than ever before,” she said.
She loves seeing how God’s patience with her has affected others in her family.
“God didn’t just call me to this,” she said. “It has been an evolution, a change for my entire family in terms of paying attention to God’s will over our own.”
Ambassador of joy
Sr. Linda said jubilee is a wonderful time to reflect and give thanks.
She enjoys listening to people who have been committed to doing God’s work for many years — be they sister jubilarians or married couples celebrating milestone anniversaries.
“I want to sit at their feet and hear their stories of how God has been calling and motivating and sustaining them for 50, 60, 70, even 80 years!” she said.
She’s grateful to God and all the people He has sent to help her find her way.
She’s also thankful to her fellow CSJs for showing her how to “unwrap God’s gifts” and put them to good use.
She asks for prayers for continued faithfulness to her calling, to help bring the light of Christ into the world and to “go out and make God look good.”
“My hope is that if I live out my calling well, the joy God gives me is going to get across,” she said.