October 13, 2008 / 6:58 PM / 11 years ago

106-year-old Obama-supporting nun shocked by fame

ROME (Reuters) - A 106-year-old American nun who became a minor celebrity after she appeared on television saying she is voting for Barack Obama is “startled and a bit anguished” by all the attention she is getting, her order said Monday.

Sister Cecilia Gaudette, born on March 25, 1902, has decided to step out of the limelight and back into the comfortable obscurity that characterized her life before the media discovered that she will be one of the oldest Americans to vote.

“Sister Cecilia is tired, she is startled and she is even a bit anguished by all the attention,” Sister Carmen Aymar, a deputy superior general at the convent in Rome where the voting nun lives, told Reuters by phone.

“Now she wants to be left alone,” Aymar said.

After Gaudette appeared on CBS News in the United States and on BBC radio saying she was voting for the first time since 1952 and that it would be for Obama, the convent was besieged by calls from reporters and media outlets across the world.

“I’m encouraged by Senator Obama,” she told the BBC. “I’ve never met him, but he seems to be a good man with a good private life. That’s the first thing. Then he must be able to govern.”

The story of Sister Cecilia, who was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and voting by absentee ballot over the Internet, was picked up by Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, and other media.

“She is very proud to be an American,” Sister Aymar told Reuters. “She keeps an American flag in her office.”

Aymar said Gaudette, a retired teacher of music and art, has been living in Rome for the past 50 years and before that taught in France and the United States.

“She didn’t know she could vote by mail or internet and after someone told her she could, she decided to do it,” Aymar said.

Gaudette said the last time she voted in an American presidential election was in 1952 and she cast her ballot for President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican.

Gaudette is hard of hearing and her questions are relayed by another nun. She wears thick glasses and still uses a large, upright black enamel typewriter.

“But she is a very determined woman and still very lucid,” said Aymar, who like Gaudette, is a member of the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary.

Gaudette said her hope for the future included peace in the world and an end to the war in Iraq.

The order, whose main work is education, runs schools in 26 countries, including the United States, Canada, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Pakistan and India.

It was founded by St Claudine Thevenet in Lyon, France in 1818. It now has some 1,400 members around the world.

Edited by Paul Casciato

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