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March 13, 2014

Tips for a good, long life from centenarian Sisters

By Elizabeth Harty

What's the secret to living a long and healthy life? That's a question recently posed by KMSP-TV reporter Jeff Ballion to some of our favorite Franciscan Sisters. He got a few answers he may have expected, and a couple that probably surprised him. But mostly, he marveled at the attitudes of these Sisters/centenarians and soaked in their spirit. Much as we all do, to our great benefit.


First, Ballion gave a glimpse into the lives of these "very wise, and very old" Sisters. Sister Vera, 102 years young, was born Odelia Klinkhammer around the time the Titanic set sail. She now strolls the halls at Assisi Heights "helping anybody that needs help," but resided at Saint Marys for 72 years and was known for covering up to 12 miles a day as a nurse and volunteer, connecting with patients and families, all while wearing heels. When asked if she still felt like she was 19, Sister Vera said, "Yeah, I do," and did a little dance.

Two other Sisters offered their insights -- recently minted centenarian Sister Antoine Murphy, who turned 100 back in January, and Sister Jaqueline Farrell, who is 104. "I'm pretty close to the glory land, and I'd better be ready," Sister Jaqueline says with a chuckle. Sister Marilyn Geiger, president of the Sisters of Saint Francis, offered this insight into why the three Sisters, along with two other centenarians in the order, have lived a good, long life. "I don't know the secret, but you know, I like to believe -- first of all, they're Minnesota girls -- but there's something about our lifestyle," she says.

The centenarians also offered these tips:

  • A lifestyle focused on serving others.
  • Finding peace and happiness amidst the chaos of living.
  • "Be satisfied with simple things. Not so taken up with material things."
  • "Slow down a little bit." (That must not have been Sister Vera.)
  • A diet that's includes lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise. "Anything you can do to keep active."
  • "And a little wine every once in a while is good." (That was Sister Vera.)

We might add laughter to that list, after hearing Sister Vera also suggest, "We were paid well, so we thought we'd better stay."

"There's also something to be said about having a strong support network," Ballion added. The five centenarian Sisters and their "more than 500 years of living" offer pretty good support for their theories. As do the 25 Sisters at Assisi Heights who are in their 90s. (Ballion may need to do a half-hour special next time he reports on the centenarian Sisters of Assisi Heights.)

Get thee to the comment section below and share your thoughts.

Tags: Community, Employee Stories, Sister Antoine, Sister Jaqueline, Sister Vera, Sisters of St. Francis

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