New Brunswick’s first Indigenous lieutenant-governor says he was inspired after travelling to Rose Prince’s gravesite and former residential school in Fraser Lake, B.C.

Graydon Nicholas, who served as New Brunswick lieutenant-governor from 2009 to 2014, made the trek July 6-8.

“I was very moved by meeting and hearing the stories of the pilgrims and their humble faith in Jesus,” he said. “It was a blessed and faith-filled pilgrimage.”

Organizers said 800 people turned up for the annual pilgrimage to the site of Lejac Residential School and the grave of Rose Prince. “Her story is a remarkable one,” said Nicholas. 

Rose Prince was born to Catholic parents in 1915 and was sent to Lejac residential school after it opened in 1922. Though she suffered a physical deformity, she was known for her peaceful nature and humility.

She died of tuberculosis just before her 34th birthday and was buried in a cemetery near the school. Her body was found incorrupt in 1951 during a cemetery transfer, and her cause for canonization began to be promoted.

Now, pilgrims from across Canada – including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yellowknife, Yukon, and New Brunswick – travel there every year to pray.

“The pilgrims were Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons who … are devoted to the spiritual life of Rose Prince,” Nicholas said. Several told him their stories. 

“Many people have indicated that they have received healings and cures through her intercessions.”

Graydon Nicholas speaking at the pilgrimage site.
Pilgrims kneel by the grave of Rose Prince.

Nicholas was invited to speak at the pilgrimage and gave reflections on personal healing, Ignatian spirituality, and Our Lady of Guadalupe’s evangelization and conversion of nine million Indigenous peoples in the 10 years after she appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico.

He participated in several events, including Masses celebrated by Bishop Stephen Jensen of Prince George, Father Ken Anderson (recently ordained for the Diocese of Prince George), and Father Gary Laboucane, OMI (pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Vancouver).

“The faith of the pilgrims was genuine, humble, and sincere.”

During his visit to B.C., Nicholas also took a walk along a section of Highway 16, also known as the Highway of Tears.

On that roadway connecting Prince George and Prince Rupert, an estimated several dozen women (mostly First Nations) have been murdered or gone missing. The tragic deaths and disappearances led to Canada’s 2015 launch of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“As I walked on the shoulder on a portion of the highway, I prayed my daily Rosary for those who were murdered and whose bodies have not been found,” Nicholas said.

*An earlier version of this story said Rose Prince’s cause for canonization has been opened, however it has not been formally started yet. -- Editor