By Frances Weller | February 13, 2021 at 4:33 PM EST – Updated February 13 at 5:31 PM
Sister Andre, who lives in Paris, is believed to be the second-oldest person in the world. She’s lived through two world wars, the pandemic of 1918, and recently recovered from COVID-19 during the current global pandemic.
Sister Andre is a member of a religious sorority, if you will, of nuns blessed with longevity. According to a report by Catholic World News, there are more nuns over 90 than under 60.
Sister Rosemary McNamara, Director of UNCW Catholic Campus Ministry, is one of the young ones. At 61, Sister Rose believes prayer, humor, and yes, an occasional glass of red wine contributes to their longevity.
“Why not,” she says. “And we have humor. When you have a group of women living together you have to have some humor. I think that has something to do with it.”
Sister Carol Perry taught Sister Rose at a Catholic High School in New York in the seventies. Now at 91 — a very youthful 91 — she, too, believes an occasional glass of red wine helps, but firmly believes its really the lifestyle of a nun that is the greatest contributing factor to their longevity.
“How could that sister have gotten to 117 without it,” Sister Carol says as she laughs. “She lives in France. Its part of the diet. I’ve lived there. It’s part of the diet. Don’t they say red wine is good for the health? One of my other secrets is I start everyday with peanut butter. I always have peanut butter for my breakfast so you might want to add that to your diet for your longevity,” she says with a wink.
Sister Carol, who still lives in New York, thinks many nuns inherit longevity through the nature of their vocation.
“We tend to live a more regular life. I get up at the same time every day. I eat three meals a day. I have time both to work and to pray because they are built into my day so I think we have more of an organized life.”
The notion that sisters spend most of their time inside the confines of the church and convent could not be further from the truth.
“I am passionate about body surfing,” says Sister Rose. “When I get a chance, I will be there. And neither Sister Carol or I drive, so we’re great walkers. We walk miles a day getting to where we need to be and sometimes its just being outside with nature.”
There’s no question their devotion to God helps but both sisters believe longevity goes beyond religion.
“I start everyday with an hour of prayer and that puts everything into focus,” says Sister Carol. “No matter how bad things are even how good they are, when I talk with the Lord about them for a while I think it all comes to the level of reality and acceptance. It isn’t just the longevity because that could just be existence. I want to say it’s living. As long as you’re alive be ready for the new don’t be afraid to try something that you’ve never tried before. Until COVID hit us, I was certainly not at all familiar with Zoom and now I have a whole ministry without leaving home. As long as there’s something new and something exciting to look forward to there is a reason to go on living. There’s a difference between living and existing and I wish people would understand that it’s not just the years. It’s what goes into those years.”
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