Sr. Francis Piscatella Turns 108

Sister of St. Dominic of Amityville Francis Dominici Piscatella is turned 108 years old on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. When Sister Francis entered the order in 1931. Herbert Hoover was president and the George Washington Bridge, which connected New York to New Jersey, had just opened.

It was a different time! After S. Francis had taken her vows, other Dominicans were sent out to “the missions” to begin teaching, but S. Francis was kept back due to a perceived disability: as a child her arm had been amputated. Although her teaching skills were proven to be exemplary — she had taught Sisters at the Motherhouse to help them earn their high school degrees — she was kept behind at the motherhouse.

As her close friend and fellow Sister of St. Dominic Francis Daniel Kammer tells it, that soon changed! A new sister had been sent to teach at Fourteen Holy Martyrs but returned to the motherhouse due to the stress of the job. The congregation sent S. Francis to fill in for a week until another replacement could be found. When the pastor was told of the situation, he simply asked, “Can she teach?” S. Alfred, who had accompanied her there, retorted, “She is a great teacher.” The pastor proclaimed, “Then she stays!”

“She is one of the greatest teachers that the Dominican Order has ever had,” said S. Kammer, who was her student, was sponsored by her when joining the order and currently lives with her. Taking a math class with S. Francis, was like “opening your head and pouring the knowledge in,” she said. S. Kammer went on to say that S. Francis was not only a respected teacher at Dominican Commercial High School, but also her reputation spread to the surrounding schools. Students who failed during the year were sent by their own school administration to DC for the summer, specifically seeking out Sister Francis with the assurance that — with her — they could learn math and pass.

S. Francis taught in many schools including eight years at Fourteen Holy Martyrs, Brooklyn; three years in St. Michael’s, New York; one year at St. Bartholomew in Elmhurst; 17 years in Dominican Commercial and 52 years in Molloy College. She also served in the Financial Aid Office at Molloy College. She was also a frequent tutor. She retired from Molloy when she was 84 years old.

“She was a dynamic teacher,” agreed Dominican Sister Margaret Schmit, who also was sponsored by S. Francis and was her student in eighth-grade at St. Michael’s, New York and Dominican Commercial High School. “Everyone loved her….she also had the sweetest singing voice.”

S. Jeanne Brendel, who was also sponsored by S. Francis, always admired her loving ways, as well as her perseverance. S. Jeanne recalled that when S. Francis followed the call to religious life, she was declined by four communities due to her disability. “They didn’t know what she would be able to do,” said S. Jeanne. “The Amityville Dominicans (under the leadership of Mother Anselma) embraced her, and she became the most wonderful role model for all of us, young sisters and older sisters too, because she is so loving and so determined.”

S. Jeanne recalled a time when they went to a restaurant and bumped into a former student who was thrilled to see S. Francis. She excitedly recalled her favorite memories of S. Francis. Afterwards, S. Jeanne marveled and told S. Francis, “Do you see the impact you have made?” S. Francis just smiled. “She is so humble,” said S. Jeanne.

During the pandemic, S. Francis has kept a low profile, but her prayer life stays fervent attending and watching mass and spending much time in prayer.

On behalf of the Sisters of St. Dominic and all who love S. Francis, we would like to thank her for her amazing dedication to her students, for fostering the faith of so many women and for her fierce determination to overcome obstacles to follow God’s path.