Nuns & longevity: living well, living longer

I had the privilege of interviewing a 101-year-old Catholic sister earlier this year. Her lucid mind and smooth skin stunned me. Sister Marguerite Turgeon, CSJ, did not look to be 101. 

But she was keenly aware that she had outlived the rest of her family. As the ninth of 15 children, all of her siblings had already died. 

She imagined heaven as a happy reunion and often wondered when her time would come.

"It's going to be a great adventure," she told me.

I turned part of our conversation into this brief video. 

Two months after our interview, Sister Marguerite died. I have thought of her many times since, recalling her peaceful acceptance of death. She is now living out that great adventure, surrounded by her parents and 14 siblings. 

Here at National Catholic Sisters Project, we celebrate the lives of women religious, often focusing on the impact of their ministries. But the length of their lives is also worth celebrating. Women religious have been noted, time and again, for enjoying a longer lifespan. Catholic sisters in the U.S. experience greater emotional and physical well-being at the end of life than other women their age and are 27 percent more likely to live into their 70s. Their purpose-driven lives, deep faith, healthy lifestyles and communal living help account for this, researchers say

Sister Marguerite was one such example. So is 100-year-old Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub, RSM, a trailblazer in forming modern health systems. 

It seems every congregation has a beloved centenarian. What a gift! 

As we continue our mission of celebrating women religious, let us not forget to glean their insights on longevity, pondering the deep connection between living well and living long.

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.