Skip to content


A birthday card from JFK

 Sally Budge

A black and white photo of Sister Catherine Berissimo Monahan wearing a big in a living room setting.

The year was 1963, and Sister Catherine Berissimo Monahan (pictured above), of our Albany Province, was turning 100 years old on November 24. In anticipation of the momentous event, someone must have requested a birthday card from the White House. This card was found in S. Catherine Berissimo Monahan’s file at the Carondelet Consolidated Archives in St. Louis.

A scan of a card with the U.S. Presidential Seal embossed in gold at the top reads "My sincere congratulations upon your birthday. May good health be yours through many more happy years." with John F. Kennedy's signature

About 70 years ago, the White House began sending out birthday cards, per request by someone who knew the person. Today the White House sends out cards with the current president’s signature for anyone who is 80 years or older, as well as for well wishes for other momentous milestones in life.

Notably, this card from the White House, bearing the signature of John F. Kennedy, was postmarked on November 21, 1963. On November 22, 1963, just after noon in downtown Dallas, Texas, President Kennedy was assassinated.

A scan of an envelope addressed to Sister Catherine from The White House with a postmark of November 21, 1963.

One day later on November 23, 1963, Sister Catherine received her White House birthday card, just in time for her birthday, but it was a grim reminder of the prior day’s events. Sister Catherine is said to have kissed the card.

Also, of historical interest and as mentioned in this newspaper article about the timely card from The Times-Union in Albany, Sister Catherine was born in 1863, so she was alive for all four presidential assassinations. While having no memory of Lincoln in 1865, she certainly would have remembered Garfield in 1881 and McKinley in 1901. The birthday card received from the White House would then be a stark reminder of the fourth assassination of a U.S. president in her lifetime.

A newspaper clipping with the headline "Nun Cherishes President's Card"

Sister Catherine lived to be 102 years old.

Category: Stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About us

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet
Congregational Offices

Connect with us

©2024 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.