This photo provided by the Sainte-Catherine Laboure care home communications manager shows Lucile Randon, Sister Andre’s birth name, in Toulon, southern France, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Sainte-Catherine Laboure care home/ David Tavella via AP)

This photo provided by the Sainte-Catherine Laboure care home communications manager shows Lucile Randon, Sister Andre’s birth name, in Toulon, southern France, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Sainte-Catherine Laboure care home/ David Tavella via AP)

COVID-defying nun toasts 117th birthday with wine and prayer

Sister André also got a Mass in her honour and a feast with Champagne, red wine and port

Question: How does one cram enough candles onto a birthday cake for one of the world’s oldest survivors of COVID-19? Answer: With 117 candles, you can’t.

A French nun who is believed to be the world’s second-oldest person celebrated her 117th birthday in style on Thursday, with multiple treats and well-wishes, cards and flowers to fete her exceptional longevity through two world wars and a recent coronavirus infection.

Sister André also got a Mass in her honour and a feast with Champagne, red wine and port. Then came a nap followed by more festivities, including an afternoon snack of baked Alaska, her favourite dessert.

“It made me very, very, very, very happy,” the birthday girl said. “Because I met all those I love and I thank the heavens for giving them to me. I thank God for the trouble they went to.”

Sister André’s big day got rolling with a morning video call with her great-nephews and great-great nephews, followed by a Mass in her honour led by the local Catholic bishop, said David Tavella, the communications manager for the care home in the southern French city of Toulon where the nun lives.

Her birthday feast included a starter of foie gras, followed by capon with fragrant mushrooms. “All of it washed down with red wine, because she drinks red wine. It’s one of her secrets of longevity,” Tavella told The Associated Press. There was also port and Champagne “because 117 years have to be toasted,” he said.

She skipped dessert because she was tired, but got it served to her later after a nap — with three candles and the numerals 117 on top.

Packing on 117 candles would have been impossible.

“We stopped trying a long time ago,” Tavella said. “Even if we made big cakes, I’m not sure that she would have enough breath to blow them all out. You would need a fire extinguisher.”

Sister André’s birth name is Lucile Randon. The Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people thought to be 110 or older, lists her as the second-oldest known living person in the world, behind only an 118-year-old woman in Japan, Kane Tanaka.

Tavella told French media earlier this week that Sister André tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-January but she had so few symptoms that she didn’t even realize she was infected. Her survival made headlines both in France and beyond.

“When the whole world suddenly started talking about this story, I understood that Sister André was a bit like an Olympic flame on a ‘round the world tour that people want to grab hold of, because we all need a bit of hope at the moment,” Tavella said.

When Tavella talked to her Thursday about celebrating her next birthday in 2022, she replied: “I won’t be here next year,” he quoted her as saying, adding: “But she has been saying that for 10 years.”

By strange coincidence, Tavella celebrated his 43rd birthday on Thursday.

“We often joke that she and I were born on the same day,” he said. “I never tell myself that she is 117 because she is so easy to talk to, regardless of age. It is only when she talks about World War I as though she lived through it that I realize, ‘Yes, she did live through it!’”

John Leicester And Jeffrey Schaeffer, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

School District 8 is considering moving some programs out of Central School to make more room. Photo: Tyler Harper
SD8 considers moving Wildflower classes, REACH program out of Central School

The district says the building is set to operate over capacity in the fall

A emergency response team assisted the RCMP in apprehending a woman in Kaslo who was barricaded in her house on March 1. File photo
RCMP apprehend woman barricaded in Kaslo house

The woman had been writing threatening messages about taking hostages, police say

A byelection will be held on March 27 to fill the council seat vacated by Brittny Anderson, who is now the MLA for Nelson-Creston. File photo
Meet the Nelson byelection candidates at online forum

Event sponsored by Nelson at its Best will take place online March 11

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Most Read