Linda and the Applicants

by staff members of Madonna House

Linda was the director of training, our equivalent of a mistress of novices, for sixteen years—while she was head of the gift shop and/or MH Publications.. Her former applicants can tell story after story of her love and listening and pouring out her life for them. Here are just a few of them.


I was having a terrible time. I asked Linda if I could talk to her and she told me she had no time. I was hurt.

But the next thing I knew, she called me over to the handicraft center and she was ironing. She said, “Sit down,” and she listened to me while she was ironing. I realized that she really didn’t have time, but she made the time.

Andorra Howard


One day Linda asked me how things were going. I said, “Well, I don’t know. I just feel so discouraged, like I’m carrying this heavy burden and I don’t understand what it is about.” She said, “Well, I know what it’s about.” I said, “you do?”

She said, “You believe the lie that you are no good. So you lost your confidence and then you don’t function well. You have to believe in yourself no matter what anyone might say.”

I’ve never forgotten this because she said it to me with such assurance and also belief in me. I thought, “Linda really believes in me.” I knew she really did.

Then she said—I remember it so well even though it was thirty years ago—”We will work together for a while in the shop until you get your sea legs (balance) back.”

Doreen Dykers


When I was an applicant, my mother came to visit me, bringing all the fixings for Sunday breakfast for the whole house of over a hundred people.

She showed up late Saturday afternoon, and she knew exactly how she wanted everything done. People were on the back porch bringing things in, and my mother was telling the head cook this is what I want and this is what I want.

The head cook was saying, “We can’t do that,” and my mother was getting more and more upset, saying, “But I brought all this food!”

Linda came in and said, “What’s the problem? Of course, we can do it. Of course, we can do it.”

She and another staff worker–I’m sure they never cooked grits* in their lives–figured out how to do it. So we had bacon and eggs and grits for Sunday breakfast, because Linda said, “Of course we can do it” and calmed my mother right down. That was Linda!

*a Southern U.S. breakfast grain dish

a staff worker


Teresa wasn’t one of Linda’s applicants, but Linda also took on those who worked with her.

At one time, I was working in the gift shop. Outside the shop we had wooden benches with all sorts of flowers and curlicues painted on them, but one was blank. One day Linda said to me: “Why don’t you go and paint that bench?”

I said: ” You don’t understand. My oldest brother was an artist, and he did it for the family. I have never painted anything. I can’t do that but I can do other things.” She said: “Oh no, that’s OK. You can do the bench.”

She was pretty determined about things. You thought you were saying what you had to say and that it would carry some weight. Anyway, she got me to use a stencil and paint the bench and it was just as simple as she said it would be.

It turned out beautifully and it opened a whole new horizon for me in handicrafts. It was such a healing thing to create something beautiful. I was so surprised that I could do something like that.

Teresa Reilander

When I was an applicant, I was very shy. Linda met you where you were at, and she tried to bring me out and befriend me and help me, but I didn’t know how to respond to that. I didn’t know how to be open with her.

However, a number of years later, when I had grown up a bit, matured a little, I hit a wall, and Linda was there for me. Linda really walked with me for several years.

I was grateful for that because I was lost. I just didn’t know what to do and Linda just sat there. She let me cry, she let me talk. She fed me, she housed me. And she has done that sort of thing for so many people.

Maureen Ray