– Aldo Maria Valli
Today I want to talk to you about a nun. Her name is Sister André, she is French and on Monday 11 February, on the day of the Virgin of Lourdes, she turned into the beauty of one hundred and fifteen years, which makes her, according to statistics, the oldest woman in France and the third in the whole world.
Sister André, born Lucille Randon, was born on 11 February 1904, under the Third French Republic, and celebrated her birthday in Toulon, in the nursing home where she has resided since 2009, when she was “only” one hundred and five years old.
Surrounded by pupils who sang for her, the nun participated in the party and at lunch. The mayor conferred her honorary citizenship and the bishop gave her a rosary blessed by Pope Francis.
Among the guests was Didier Borione, eighty-nine years old, whom Sister André met when she was a maid at her parents’ house. At the time, Didier was a two-year-old child and was traced through the internet.
Sister André is on a wheelchair and is visually impaired, but “still has her whole head,” say the people who know her.
Born in Alès in a non-practicing Protestant family, Lucille had a twin, who died at just eighteen months. Baptized at twenty-six, she became a nun quite late, especially for those times, at forty-one years old, and entered the Daughters of Charity, where he led a life at the service of the poor, the orphans and the elders.
What is it like to be one hundred and fifteen?
When asked by the interviewers, Sister André replied:
It is not easy to digest, because we have a lot of disadvantages and we are not free. I cannot walk, I cannot eat alone. Plus we old people do not sleep well because we’re always painful somewhere. Even talking to other people is difficult, because I have changed residence many times and do not know them. It’s not funny for me. But apart from the inconveniences, here is paradise, because there are people of unimaginable kindness.
How do you consider the fact of being the oldest French person?
They told me I’m the oldest in France and the third in the world, but I’m not proud of it. I would rather be young and be able to work well. I would rather be able to read, embroider, knit: all this I miss. And then people cannot always stand by me to keep me company, because they have a lot of work, and so I’m a bit lonely and isolated. And it’s not fun to be alone with your pains.
What was the best day of your life?
The return of my two brothers from the war. That of 1914-1918. I had the pleasure of seeing them both return, even if the first one was seriously injured. Lucien arrived home in the middle of the night. When I got up to go to school, Mom told me that my brother was back and it was an immense joy. He woke up and kissed me. I was so happy!.
What is the secret of your longevity?
I have no secrets. I have been dying three times and three times I was able to survive. I do not know how. I had a twin who died when she was only a year and a half in an accident. Perhaps God wanted me to live the days of my sister.
How do you see the world today?
It’s terrible. I think we do not love each other, we hate each other, we only look for the noise instead of loving each other and helping each other.
What did you do for your birthday?
They raised me, made me beautiful and took me to Mass, a Mass with several priests, family members and residents. Then we had a special lunch and a small meeting with everyone. I was very happy because we invited family and friends. But I got tired. It is hard to smile and say a word to everyone. You know, one hundred and fifteen sometimes I say nonsense, sometimes we’re not very lucid.
What do you still want?
That there are no more wars. I have lived three of them and there were many for a lifetime. During the war in Algeria I was at the hospital in Vichy. I remember a very nice boy, a mason who had restored the chapel. It was fascinating, but a bomb exploded beside him and lost his mind. He no longer recognized anyone. He was twenty-two, what a beautiful boy he was … And then what do I want? May God come and get me soon. So the people who take care of me can rest and I can find my family and my friends. One hundred and fifteen years may be sufficient. I hope God will take me this year.
Best wishes, Sister André!
(From Duc in altum, 2019©AP. Used with permission)