New foundation will protect Woonsocket mystic’s relics

New foundation will protect Woonsocket mystic’s relics

David Ethier, president of the Little Rose Foundation of Rhode Island, stands with pieces of the chapel built by Rose Marie Ferron’s cousin, Rose Myette. (Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)
Lawyer from Rome hopes to reopen Little Rose’s case for sainthood

WOONSOCKET – Her story holds a special place in city history: her gravestone at Precious Blood Cemetery is a lasting reminder that many believed a young girl’s wounds symbolized something far greater, and that a healer once lived within our midst.

But much more remains from the life of Marie Rose Ferron, a Woonsocket woman who inspired many during her brief lifetime as a mystic stigmata, and with the help of a new foundation, those relics will be protected and eventually, displayed to the public.

The Rose Ferron Foundation of Rhode Island, a group of around a dozen local devotees, was formed in August 2015 in hopes of protecting an extensive collection of Ferron’s belongings and original artwork created for a chapel made by her caregiver and cousin, Rose Myette.

Now, they have piles of clothes, artifacts and mementos from Ferron’s life, many of which have never been seen by the public. And they’re hoping others will join in their cause of educating the public about Woonsocket’s own mystic, and reigniting a campaign for her canonization.

“The foundation was really only created to try to save the chapel and keep the story of Little Rose alive, but everything changed when Dr. Ambrosi called,” said the group’s president, David Ethier, about contact they received from an attorney based in Rome who is looking to take up Rose’s cause.

Ferron was born in 1902 in in St. Germain de Grantham, Quebec, the 10th of what would become a family of 15 children in a highly religious Catholic family. The family moved to Central Falls when Ferron was 4 and in 1925, relocated to Woonsocket. Reports say that Ferron’s mother offered each child individually to God in honor of each of the 15 mysteries of the rosary, which, according Roman Catholic teaching, commemorate events during Jesus Christ’s lifetime.

As the 10th child, Rose’s life was destined to be dedicated to the crucifixion, and books, shrines and ministries in countries across the globe have been created in honor of the events that marked her days on earth.

Believers say Ferron was a stigmata, suffering the wounds of Christ on her hands, feet, the sides of her body and her forehead, and bleeding constantly. During her life, countless people visited Ferron asking for intercession and prayers, and many testified of the young girl’s ability to answer them, healing the faithful of medical conditions. Some have stated that the scent of roses was manifested when encountering items that Ferron handled.

“Anyone who saw this, it changed them dramatically,” said Ethier.

Ferron was bedridden and required 24-hour care, and cousin Myette was among her primary helpers. At the age of 17, Myette began building a chapel in Glendale, a task she said came under instruction from Ferron.

In 1930, she bought a Craftsman jigsaw to continue the task.

“Rose Ferron told her where to get it, and that it was on sale,” Ethier said. “Little Rose had the gift of bilocation and she would visit the chapel and tell her, ‘This is what you have to do.’”

Myette’s next 85 years would be spent carving wood with the precision of a skilled craftsman, hand-painting intricate thorn patterns on furniture items including tables, chairs and an alter, and sewing majestic hook rugs for the chapel.

“Everything was done with such detail. When you look at it, you wonder how someone who wasn’t trained in it could do such beautiful work,” Ethier said.

Myette was a seamstress by trade, operating the Little Rose Shop in Woonsocket, and made all of Ferron’s clothes.

“She was devoted to Little Rose, and Little Rose gave her instructions to build the chapel,” said Ethier.

Ethier says Ferron’s motives, as told by Myette, had something to do with the future.

Ferron died in 1936 at the age of 33, but Myette continued her work, also holding on to mementos of her cousin, from bedding and trinkets, to blood-stained clothing.

But she kept the chapel a secret until Ferron’s sister, Flora, died in 2002 at the age of 97. At the time, Myette was 90.

Soon after, Myette opened her chapel to the public, and prayer meetings were held in her home once a month. It was then that she and Ethier became friends.

When Myette died in 2014 at the age of 102, Ethier knew something had to be done to protect the collection, which includes things such as Ferron’s pillow and the first purse she owned, as well as original records from Father Boyer, Ferron’s spiritual adviser, who would go on to write a popular biography about the Woonsocket mystic titled “She Wears a Crown of Thorns.”

The items also included sworn and notarized testimony about Ferron from hundreds of believers recorded by Father John Baptist Palm.

Ferron was never beatified or canonized by the church despite the extensive records. Three times the Diocese of Providence opened investigations into the Woonsocket woman’s life to see if her name should be added to the church’s official list of known stigmatists, but all three were denied. In 1964, Bishop Russell J. McVinney issued a formal decree stating that “any further action to promote the cause of Rose Ferron is not warranted.”

“The church hasn’t recognized her, but the faithful do,” said Ethier. “You also don’t want the faithful to cause any friction with the church.”

Ethier formed a community of around a dozen interested parties in August in hopes of protecting the chapel and its contents.

“We couldn’t let it fall into the hands of people who didn’t have the same devotion to Little Rose,” he said.

The group soon learned they would need to relocate the artifacts and disassembled Myette’s creation, moving it into storage with the intent of documenting the collection, and finding a new permanent home.

“It has to be the right place,” said Ethier. “The idea is, it’s for the people of Rhode Island, especially the French Canadians.”

Meanwhile, word of the new foundation had traveled.

“Within a month and a half we were contacted by Rome,” Ethier said.

Andrew Ambrosi, a Roman postulator who has succesfully taken up causes for canonization, and has worked on cases including Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Terence Cook and Father Edward Flanegan, was interested in Little Rose.

“He wants us to hire him,” said Ethier.

Ambrosi will be traveling to the area this spring to review Ferron’s case, just in time for the 80th anniversary of her death. 

“What is needed with Little Rose is for an outsider to do an investigation,” Ethier said. “It would be fair to Little Rose and to the people who knew her and were involved that this be re-examined.” 

On Saturday, Jan. 23, Ethier will give a talk at Woonsocket Harris Public Library about Ferron. He plans to reveal details about her life and death, and offer accounts of what people have said about her, followed by a question and answer session. 

He will also have a display of mementos that were owned by Little Rose.

“No one has seen any of this stuff,” Ethier said.

The event is sponsored by the Woonsocket Historical Society and is free and open to the public. It will begin at 2 p.m. 

“One of my objectives is to draw more people,” Ethier said of the talk. “We need volunteers to make the foundation work. I need help. I need people that will help me preserve these historic artifacts that we have.” 

Those unable to attend the talk but interested in learning more about the foundation are asked to contact Ethier at or 401-568-0349.

“It’s such a treasure,” Ethier said of the collection. “I want to prepare it for the next generation.” 

Rose Myette’s chapel dedicated to Little Rose, before the items were disassembled and brought to storage.
Rose Marie Ferron’s belongings, many of which show what appears to be blood stains, are now owned by the Little Rose Foundation of Rhode Island. (Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)
Above is a photograph of Little Rose.