Message from the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council for the
National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples
Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
12 December 2011
There was little indication of anything special about a quiet and unassuming child who attended the Lejac Indian Residential School in the 1920s and 1930s. She was perfectly ordinary.
Rose Prince was born in 1915 at Nak’azdli, a First Nations community near Fort St. James. Her parents were devout Catholics and she inherited their deep faith and love for God. Descended from the great Carrier Chief Kwah, Rose was a good student and a gifted artist.
Her life was not easy; born with curvature of the spine that resulted in a hump on her back, she lived with pain that made her movements awkward. Although she was self conscious about her deformity, she did not complain.
Rose’s life was marked by cheerfulness and gratitude. She helped other students with their school work and they sought her out for guidance. She was known to hum or sing as she worked and she gave away her paintings and intricate crochet and beadwork as gifts to the Sisters and other students on special occasions.
Rose was devout in the practice of her faith and could often be found in prayer in the chapel. As it came time for her to leave the school she asked if she could stay on as a staff member. This desire was granted and she was able to continue her simple life of prayer and work.
Rose lived a hidden life and died of tuberculosis in 1949 at the age of 34. She could easily have been forgotten. But in 1951 when it was decided that a few graves west of the school would be moved to a larger cemetery nearby, Rose Prince’s grave broke open during the transfer and the workers were amazed to find her body and clothing perfectly preserved.
Devotion to Rose Prince has developed over the years. Many find comfort and some have found healing through her intercession. A pilgrimage to her gravesite began in 1990 and has grown into an annual event that attracts hundreds of people from throughout Western Canada.
Rose Prince continues to stand out in a special and relevant way in today’s society in part because she was a rather ordinary person who lived out both her humanity and her faith in a rather extraordinary way. Many people respond only to special occasions and celebrations, but Rose found meaning in the daily and regular celebrations of life, through everyday acts of compassion and kindness.