Friday, June 05, 2015
Rose Prince: A Future Saint from a Residential School
In 1951 four gravediggers were re-locating several graves near the Residential School at Lejac, BC (900 km north of Vancouver) as they were too close to a barn. When one of the caskets accidentally broke open the men were astonished to see that the body of the young woman inside was uncorrupted even though it had been buried two years ago. They opened the other caskets and these bodies had decomposed normally. The uncorrupted body was that of Rose Prince.
The gravediggers, including Jack Lacerte, who later became one of the first Native RCMP officers in Canada, reported the incident to the Sisters of the Child Jesus at the school. They came to look at Rose’s body and one of the Sisters, Sister Eleanor, reported, “She was so lovely looking and was smiling”. Sister Eleanor is the only nun who saw Rose’s body and who was still living in 1998 when the documentary, Uncorrupted, was made.
Rose Prince - Beginnings
Rose Prince was born in Fort St. James, BC, Canada in 1915 of the Dakelh First Nation also known as the Carrier Nation. Her father, Jean-Marie Prince, the son of a Chief, was a devout Catholic who helped the priest with translation, prayers and singing. He was known as ‘Church Chief’. People remember Rose’s mother, Agathe, as a very beautiful and kind woman.
Agathe had been brought up by the Sisters of the Child Jesus and she and Jean-Marie met while they were students at the Residential School. They were married and returned to Fort St. James eventually having nine children. Rose was the third child and she first attended the little school at Stuart Lake. In 1922 she went to the newly re-built residential school at Lejac which was run by the Sisters of the Child Jesus. The Lejac Residential School was named after Father Jean-Marie Lejac, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate missionary who co-founded the mission at Fort St. James in 1873.
Her mother died of influenza when Rose was seventeen and her father re-married. After graduation, Rose asked to stay on at the residential school. One source says that her step-mother did not accept her so she didn’t feel comfortable at home, another says that she liked the peace at the school and wanted to be of use there. She used her gifts as a seamstress, cook and substitute teacher. Rose was very artistic and created beautiful embroidered Church linens and hand-made cards with her paintings of flowers which she gave to the Sisters and other friends.
As a child. Rose had been injured which resulted in a back deformity making it difficult for her to walk and kneel. It may have also caused her considerable pain but her contemporaries say she never complained. Her friends describe her as gentle and humble and she was said to have a keen sense of humour. Other children would often come to her for advice. During school years she was known as an excellent student and would help the younger children with their homework and encourage them to read books. She loved the prayers and hymns in the Carrier language which had been written by Father Adrian Maurice and when she wasn’t working could often be found in the chapel. But her life was ‘ordinary’ and others did not see her as very much different than themselves.
Sickness and Death
When she was in her thirties, Rose contracted tuberculosis, a disease which was very common in all the population of Western Canada at that time and for which there was no treatment except rest and fresh air. Gradually she grew weaker until she was confined to her bed and unable to work. In August of 1949, she was admitted to the hospital in Vanderhoof, BC. Her brother, Paul, was with her. She asked to see the Sisters and Father Mulvihill who celebrated a Mass for her in the hospital chapel. After she received Holy Communion that evening she died. She was only thirty-four. A few days later she was buried in the cemetery at Lejac.
The Story Becomes Known
The story of Rose’s uncorrupt body did not become widely known after it was discovered in 1951. However, in 1996, articles about the discovery and pilgrimages to the site were published in the Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Star.
A miner of Ukrainian descent, Nick Loza, living in Fraser Lake had injured his back and was unable to work. He suffered excruciating pain because of scar tissue pressing on a nerve. One day his parish priest came with soil from Rose’s grave and he put it on Lozas’ back and prayed for him. One hour later, Loza reports, his back felt better and he slept through the night for the first time since his injury. The next day he had no pain, he returned to work and has been well ever since. Others have also reported healings.
In July 1990, Father Jules Goulet organized a pilgrimage to Rose’s grave in Lejac. That year only 20 people went on the pilgrimage but in 1995 there were 1,200 people and the numbers have grown ever since. The Vatican is aware of the story of Rose Prince but in order for someone to officially be declared a Saint certain conditions must be met. Healings, such as that of Nick Loza, must be thoroughly investigated to rule out other causes of the healing before they can be attributed to the intercession of a saint. It is not known if there is someone collecting information about healings related to intercession by Rose Prince. Further information about the pilgrimage and the history of Lejac Residential School can be found at the following websites: PGDiocese.bc.ca and Lejac.Blogspot.com.
Discussions regarding bodies of saints that have not decomposed can be found on OvercomeProblems.com.
The Rose Prince Pilgrimage for 2015 was July 3-5 at Fraser Lake, BC. The pilgrimage began with former students at LeJac Residential School wanting to meet for a reunion. It has grown to include those who are interested in knowing more about Rose Prince. Free campground sites available for tents, campers and
Rose Prince official Website accessed June 29, 2012.
Uncorrupted: The Story of Rose Prince. Documentary by Ken Frith. Shenandoah Films 1998.
CBC News. Trumpener, Betsy. The Grave of First Nation’s Woman, October 16, 2008.
The Diocese of Prince George. Website accessed June 29, 2012.
Lejac Residential School website. Accessed June 30,, 2012.
Overcome Problems. Website accessed June 30, 2012.