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.

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

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

Phase four of the Kicking Horse Canyon project will twin the winding stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Golden. (file photo)
Trans-Canada Highway reduced to one lane east of Golden

It’s the first of the Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 closures which will ramp up in the coming weeks

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Most Read