The Truth About The 117-Year-Old Nun Who Beat COVID-19

Sister André, a nun in the city of Toulon, France, has recovered from the COVID-19 virus and emerged from isolation just in time to celebrate her 117th birthday this week. She is not only the oldest living resident of Europe, but is also reported to be the second oldest known living person in the world (via AP News).

According to current World Population Review data, France has a population of over 65 million people with expected population growth in the coming years. With upwards of 3.4 million positive COVID-19 cases having been reported, and more than 80,000 deaths throughout the country, the number of coronavirus infections is on the rise (via The Washington Post). With only about 3 percent of citizens having received vaccinations thus far, the virus has continued to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions (via The New York Times).

Though she experienced no symptoms aside from being very tired, Sister André, along with 81 other residents of the Sainte Catherine Labouré nursing home, underwent isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus (via Smithsonian Magazine).

Sister Andre's birthday festivities were in full swing

Having lived through the influenza pandemic of 1918 as an adolescent, spokesperson for the retirement facility, David Tavella, describes how Sister André's first and foremost concern was for the wellbeing of the other residents. In an interview recalling his conversation with Sister André, Tavella stated, "She kept telling me, 'I'm not afraid of COVID because I'm not afraid of dying, so give my vaccine doses to those who need them.'"

Her love for others has persisted long throughout her life. Devoting herself to the Catholic faith at age 19, Sister André began working in her mid-20s as a caretaker in a hospital providing care for children and the elderly. She formally became a nun in 1944.

She celebrated her birthday this past Thursday with festivities in full swing between family phone calls, a decadent lunch, a fruit-flavored Baked Alaska, and a glass of red wine (a personal favorite of hers!). In an interview with French newspaper, Le Parisien, Sister André relayed a message of strength and perseverance to those and their families facing the virus. "Keep hope, fight, fight to heal and set an example," she said.