When the women of St. Ann's made Victoria their home, it was with the understanding that they would live out their lives at the Convent. In February of 1864, the Register of St. Andrew's Cathedral listed the first funeral, "in the Sisters' garden, The Corporation of the City of Victoria having permitted said Sisters to set apart that part of their property for a graveyard". This first cemetery was on the south edge of the grounds, close to the road, and was marked by a Hawthorne tree, as a memorial.
As the nearby playground expanded, the decision was made to move the cemetery to an area at the front of the building, directly opposite to where the Hooper Wing now stands. This was made the official burial plot for the Sisters of St. Ann in the West in 1889. It became the custom to enclose a hand-written copy of the deceased Sisters' vows in a glass vial, sealed with wax, within the casket. (from Reminiscences of St. Ann's)
May is the month of Mary, a special and holy figure to the girls and women of St. Ann's. Each year, during the spring, a statue of Mary in the cemetery area would be decorated. The girls would then make a Procession to the Virgin. Wearing white veils, the children would attend a service in the chapel, then make a procession through the grounds towards the statue. The little girls loved this parade, but some of the older students became self conscious about the activity.
A pupil from the beginner's class and a graduate would each be chosen to present the Virgin with a crown of flowers. These wreaths were made by all the girls, out of flowers from home and the Convent gardens. Lilacs worked well, as they didn't wilt. One little blonde girl particularly prized the wild roses her mother would help her to wind together, and a pair of red-haired sisters are remembered for their insistence on wearing equally red poppies. This procession was the highlight of many former pupils' memories of their time at St. Ann's, singing "Oh Mary, We Crown Thee With Blossoms Today" as they spent a spring day in the gardens. Most of them did not realize that they were actually in the cemetery, and many were not aware that there had been a cemetery on the grounds at all.
In 1908, a plot in the northeast corner of Ross Bay Cemetery, where Fairfield and St. Charles streets meet, was opened for the Sisters of Saint Ann. Burials at the Convent ceased at this time, and were moved to Ross Bay. The Sisters who had been buried at St. Ann's before the new cemetery was established were moved in 1974.
The formal graves of the Sisters at Ross Bay were marked with plain, white marble crosses and a central monument was placed in the middle of the burials. Unfortunately, only about half a dozen of these original markers remain, due to vandalism. Some of those that endured this destruction can be seen along a hedge on the east side of the graveyard. The Old Cemeteries Society in Victoria often gives tours in Ross Bay, some of which make special note of Sister Osithe's artistic presence in Victoria and the role of Mother Providence in health care in British Columbia. For more information about their activities, visit their web site at www.oldcem.bc.ca.