Sister Linda Donovan, M.M.
Current Ministry Location-Chile
Sister Linda Donovan entered the Maryknoll Sisters in 1979 after working for two years as an executive secretary and a teacher. She received her B.A. in Social Work and Education. The next year in December 1980, two Maryknoll Sisters, an Ursuline Sister and a lay missioner – the “Four Churchwomen” – were assassinated in El Salvador. She participated in demonstrations against the injustices in Central America while she prepared for her first vows and the choice of a country where she would be missioned. She asked herself, “Could I go where there is no hope and live with hope?” She knew of the repressive Chilean regime and that the poor suffered, and decided to go there.
She arrived in 1981 and by the next year there were public protests against Augusto Pinochet. These were followed by attacks on poor areas, tear gas and shootings, water canons. The Sisters were involved in solidarity work in their parish, going door to door after protests to be sure the people were alright. For years the oppression was part of their lives. Sister Linda says, “Being in Chile at that time changed me. The youth changed me, broadened me in many ways. I’ll always have some commitment to youth. There’s no way to affect the future except by affecting those that live it.”
After a ministry of mental health group work with young women in Pudahuel in Santiago, she moved to another población, La Bandera. In her family Sister Linda was surrounded by music and singing. She taught herself guitar and plays and sings by ear, goes nowhere without music, singing, guitar. When she and her guitar arrived in La Bandera, she offered to teach guitar and fifty young people showed up with delight.
She coordinated a youth drop-in center, providing workshops to prepare them for jobs, sports, crafts, theater. Most of the youth had alcohol and drug problems. She did counseling with both youth and adults, and studied for five years in the Instituto Carlos Casanueva and did her thesis on the role of the counselor in the process of marital conflict and separation. Her youth ministry grew from the parish level to the deanery to the Zone.
In 1998 she was appointed as the Maryknoll Sisters Personnel Director until 2001, then continued honing her counseling skills and was granted her master’s degree in 2002 from McGregor School of Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio
Returning to Chile she was asked to begin a new focus, working with the Chilean Conference of Religious. She directs an international program for formation directors. Several reasons prompted her to accept this challenging and very different work. Paramount were its direct relation to young people and to the future of religious life. Young religious will face the challenges of a changing society and many will serve its youth.