At 108, Dominican sister says God ‘just wants me to hang out’ – The Leaven Catholic Newspaper
by Gregory A. Shemitz
EAST WILLISTON, NY (CNS) – To put Sister Francis Dominici Piscatella’s extraordinarily long life in historical perspective, consider Pope Pius X as Pontiff and Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States when she was born in 1913.
Nine Popes and 18 Presidents later, Sister Piscatella, a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic in Amityville, New York, challenges the aging process while living independently in a condominium she shares with another nun in a village on Long Island.
Sister Piscatella celebrated her 108th birthday on April 20.
According to data collected by the Gerontology Research Group, an organization that tracks centenarians around the world, Sister Piscatella is the second oldest religious woman in the United States. Only Sister Vincent de Paul Hutton, a Dominican Sister of Peace, aged 110, is older. She resides in a community-run long-term care facility in St. Catharine, Kentucky.
Sister Piscatella told the Catholic News Service that she did not feel her age.
“I lead a normal life, I think normally, I read and I do things that an old lady would do,” she says.
“Normal” is not the word most observers would use to describe it. “Incredible” can be more precise.
Sister Piscatella remains in exceptional physical and mental health 90 years after entering religious life.
Her daily activities include praying, reading, solving word search puzzles, and watching the Catholic Faith Network and other television programs. Weather permitting, she attends mass daily with fellow Dominican Francis Daniel Kammer, 81, with whom she lives and who drives her to church and other dates.
Remarkably, Sister Piscatella manages to get around without using a wheelchair, walker or cane.
Born and raised in Central Islip, New York, she has been remarkably resilient, having lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 pandemics, among other challenges.
At the age of 2, Sister Piscatella’s left forearm was amputated after suffering a serious hand injury. She later recovered from a car accident that resulted in a broken right arm and rebounded from a near-fatal brain hemorrhage suffered when she fell at the age of 102. She also had hip replacement surgery.
Sister Piscatella, one of the seven children of Italian immigrants Salvatore and Angela Piscatella, thanked her mother for developing her will to overcome personal obstacles.
“No one has ever had to help me,” she said. “If someone was helping someone, I was helping them.
“My mother made me completely independent. When I went to the convent, I had to prove to my superiors that I couldn’t do anything.
Sister Piscatella joined the Dominicans in 1931 after other religious communities rejected her due to her physical disability. She answered the call to serve the church as an educator, preparing for this career at St. John’s University, where she earned her BA and MA degrees.
Possessing an aptitude and a love for numbers, Sister Piscatella excelled as a math teacher and tutor at several elementary schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, and then at Dominican Commercial High School in a neighborhood in the Borough of Queens. in New York, and Molloy College, run by the Dominican Republic, in Rockville Center, New York, where she worked for 52 years before retiring at 84.
Sister Kammer was among the thousands of students inspired by the beloved nun. She was taught by Sister Piscatella at the Dominican Commercial and then asked her to sponsor her when she asked to enter the order.
Following in Sister Piscatella’s footsteps, Sister Kammer became a nun and a teacher, serving in elementary schools in the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Center before finding her as a teacher in Molloy. Between them, Sisters Piscatella and Kammer recorded 156 years of religious life.
Prayers and a positive attitude helped the two nuns navigate life during the coronavirus pandemic.
They have found refuge in their home and only leave the apartment when necessary. Sister Kammer drives Sister Piscatella to doctor’s appointments. They resumed mass when their parish, St. Aidan’s Church in Williston Park, reopened for community worship last spring.
Sister Kammer will also make occasional trips to the store for groceries to supplement the cooked meals their relatives and friends deliver to them.
Cabin fever did not affect the two women. “We are never bored,” Sister Kammer said. “We pray a lot. We always find something to do.
Due to the pandemic, Sister Piscatella’s last two birthday celebrations were confined to the lawn in front of the front windows of the ground floor apartment, where family members and other supporters gathered. gathered with balloons and placards and sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
The two nuns, who received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, are hopeful that Sister Piscatella can celebrate her next birthday at a restaurant that can accommodate a guest list including her eight nephews and nieces, 23 great-nephews and great-nieces and 25 great-grand-nephews and great-great-nieces.
Sister Piscatella, who will reach the status of “supercentenary” at the age of 110, says she is “happy” with her life.
Its secret to longevity?
“I guess God doesn’t want me yet,” she said. “He just wants me to hang out.”