Long before she devoted her life to her faith—before she taught school for more than sixty years, and founded what would become the state’s largest private university—Elizabeth Novy, 101, was a farm girl from Wing, North Dakota.

“My mother used to read stories about the saints and bible stories, too,” Sister Elizabeth says. “And some of those saints kind of struck me. I thought, ‘Gee, maybe I should do that!'”

She was just a teenager when she realized she wanted to become a Benedictine sister—but fearing that her father would disapprove, Elizabeth didn’t make the leap until age 22.

She recalls mustering the courage to tell her father: “I said, ‘I wanna take the Greyhound bus and go to St. Joseph, Minnesota, because I want to become a sister.'”

Her father’s response surprised her. “He said, ‘That’s the best thing in the world that you could do!'”

She made her vows—then, Sister Elizabeth Novy returned to North Dakota to found the Annunciation Monastery in 1947. That group would go on to establish Mary College, now the University of Mary.

“Another building, and another building, and pretty soon an explosion,” Sister Elizabeth says. “It was a little town—well, it is a little town.”

All the while, she was a schoolteacher. She organized Plant and Craft sales to raise money for the poverty-stricken in Africa and Guatemala—teaching children the importance of charity with some life skills on the side. “I wanted them to know how to make change with a five dollar bill,” she says.

Now, at 101 years old, Sister Elizabeth says the secret to a long life is two-fold.

First: keep moving (and don’t watch too much television).

And second: “Wherever I go, it’s always easy to pray,” she says. “That’s the case with everybody, if they want to. The time is there.”