Sister D'Agostino receives papal blessing in honor of 105th birthday

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NORTH PROVIDENCE — A pair of trees stand on the grounds of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary house on Fruit Hill Avenue. They were planted in 2009 to mark the 96th birthday of one of the sisters in residence there, Sister Savina D’Agostino, FMM.

Another of Sister D’Agostino’s milestones was celebrated at Fruit Hill on June 24: her 105th birthday.

The Franciscans’ dining room was filled with friends, extended family and well-wishers. Even Pope Francis joined the festivities — from afar — by imparting an apostolic blessing on Sister D’Agostino. The large parchment was on display in the Franciscan Missionaries hall.

Sister D’Agostino’s actual birthday is August 29. Born in 1913 in Providence, she was a professional seamstress until joining the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary at the Fruit Hill house in 1931, when she was just 18 years old. In addition to her 105th birthday, this year marks another milestone of Sister D’Agostino’s 87th anniversary as a Franciscan.

When she was 22, Sister D’Agostino, along with four other sisters, established a Foundation Community at St. Michael’s Mission, a Navajo reservation mission in Arizona. During her 25 years there, Sister D’Agostino learned prayers in the Navajo language, taught catechism, worked in the medical dispensary and attended sick residents of the reservation.

After working in a San Francisco single women’s residence and a retirement home for priests and religious of the St. Louis archdiocese, Sister D’Agostino returned to the Fruit Hill house in 1976 and took up service as the dining room organizer, sacristan, grounds maintenance and a daycare senior center volunteer.

On June 24, Sunday Mass at 9 a.m. was celebrated by Sister D’Agostino’s grand-nephew, Father Thomas Reagan. Following the Mass, party guests had photos taken with Sister and enjoyed refreshments, followed by tributes, a retrospective slide show and of course, the traditional cutting of the cake.