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

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

I want to fly higher. Eve Moore and her brother Leroy Moore are treated to some high pushes from Simon Temple while swinging at Moose Tot Park on April 15. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Photo Gallery: Prince Rupert tots enjoy fun in the sun

Warmer weather is attracting kids of all ages to play outside

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Cancer Care Unit at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, April 14, will benefit from a $100,000 donation from Prince Rupert Port Authority towards renovations. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Port Authority donates $100,000 to hospital renovations

Cancer Care Unit at PRRH to undergo upgradesat PRRH to undergo upgrades

Teresa Van sorts bottles at the April 10 Rainmakers Interact Club bottle drive to earn funds for six Seabin garbage collection units for harbours and waterfronts in the local region. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Bottle drive successful with more collected than can be sorted in one day

Rainmakers Interact Club supports local community with funds toward ocean garbage collection units

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

(Sarah Blyth/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to civilian Sarah Blyth

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

B.C. Premier John Horgan greets Lt. Governor Janet Austin's dog Macduff as she arrives to present the throne speech at the B.C. legislature, April 12, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of B.C. residents have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read