Sister Mary Cecile Amore celebrates 108 years

Surrounded by family, former students and friends, Sr. Mary Cecile Amore celebrated her 108th birthday Friday, Feb. 15, with a party at the Lourdes Health Care Center adjacent to the Villa Notre Dame on Belden Hill Road. In May, Sr. Cecile will celebrate 85 years as a professed School Sister of Notre Dame.

Sr. Cecile was actually born Antoinette Marie Amore Feb. 17, 1905, in Pietrocatella, Italy, and emigrated to Bridgeport as a child with her parents and brother and sister.

As a girl she developed a great love of music and took piano lessons from a School Sister at St. John Nepomucene Convent.

As a novice, she took the name Mary Cecile in honor of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, according to her niece and namesake, Cecile Rodia, who was by her side at the party.

She took her first vows in 1928 and from that time, until she was 99, Sr. Cecile embarked on a religious vocation in music. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Catholic University of America, she taught piano, voice and violin and was an organist and choir director.

Among her pupils were Sr. Francis and Sr. Ilona, actual sisters, who studied under Sr. Cecile at St. John Nepomucene in Bridgeport during the 1950s.

Both sisters studied piano, and Sr. Ilona was also in the glee club.

“She was a little strict,” Sr. Ilona said of the diminutive Sr. Cecile. “She made sure she got what she wanted.”

Sr. Francis recalled a piano recital in which she played a duet of Ravel’s Shéhérazade with a friend.

“For some reason, we couldn’t figure out how to end it,” Sr. Francis said. “We just kept playing the same part over and over. I said to my friend, ‘I’ll count to three and we’ll just lift our hands,’” which they did. “I could see Sr. Cecile who was looking at us, saying, ‘What happened?’”

Ms. Rodia, who attended the celebration with her husband, Arthur, and children Gea Edwards, 10, and Lex, 8, also studied piano with her aunt.

“I took lessons from the time I was 5 until I was 16,” she said. “It was all classical, only classical music.

“Every year we had a recital and we all wore gowns,” she recalled. “Our mothers made them.”

In addition to her teaching duties, Sr. Cecile played the organ for Mass every morning.

At the celebration a prayer was read in her honor, which included, “We are glad and grateful for all your gifts and the love you have shared so generously all these years.”

The School Sisters of Notre Dame general superior Sr. Mary Maher sent a letter of congratulations signed by all the School Sisters serving in Rome.

The sisters sang Happy Birthday as a huge cake made by the staff was placed in front of her.

Sr. Cecile lives at the Lourdes Health Care Center. According to Michele Santo, director of activities at Lourdes, Sr. Cecile is active, excelling in exercise programs. She said Sr. Cecile “has a great range of motion and encourages other sisters to push themselves as long as they can.”