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A Long Island nun is being recognized as the second-oldest woman religious in the United States. Sr. Francis Dominici Piscatella celebrated her 108th birthday on April 20. The centenarian says she’s “just living a normal life.”
What Sr. Piscatella calls “normal,” however, belies the extraordinary as she has lived through some of the most turbulent times of the 20th century. From WWII to the Cold War and beyond, Sr. Piscatella has been around for 9 popes and 18 presidents.
Sr. Piscatella’s story is the stuff blockbuster films are made of — complete with adversity and overcoming obstacles. Catholic News Service reports that at the age of 2, she sustained a horrible injury that required the amputation of her left forearm.
This disability would later make it hard to find a place within a religious order. After being turned away by several communities, she eventually found a place with the Dominicans. There, with a special determination she credits to her mother, Sr. Piscatella proved that she could accomplish any task.
She told CNS:
“Nobody has ever had to help me. If anyone was helping somebody, it was I helping them.” She added, “My mother made me completely independent. When I went to the convent, I had to prove to my superiors that there was nothing I couldn’t do.”
Educating and inspiring
After earning a Bachelors and Masters degree from St. John’s University, Sr. Piscatella began a career as an educator. She rotated through several grade schools in New York City before settling on a 52-year stint as a professor at Malloy College. During her time as a teacher she inspired thousands of students, not least of all Sister Francis Daniel Kammer, who became a fellow Dominican nun.
Today Sr. Kammer is Sr. Piscatella’s closest friend and companion. The two spend time together in prayer, driving to doctors appointments, or attending Mass at the recently reopened St. Aiden’s Church. They say they “are never bored.”
Sr. Piscatella has had to spend her last two birthdays in isolation due to the world pandemic. Having received her vaccination shot, she is hopeful that she can celebrate her 109th birthday in a restaurant again.
According to the Gerontology Research Group, Sr. Piscatella is the second oldest female religious in the United States. The only nun older than her is Sister Vincent de Paul Hutton, 110. By coincidence, Sr. Hutton is also a Dominican with the community in St. Catherine, Kentuky.