The Oblates of Mary Immaculate Cemetery is located on the grounds of the former St. Mary’s Mission and Residential School, and includes the Fraser River Heritage Park.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to Canada from France in 1841 to promote Christianity to Indigenous people and settlers. While many of their contributions were celebrated in the past, they have more recently issued apologies for their role in the residential school system and for the part they played in the “cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious imperialism” towards Indigenous people.
The mission was constructed by Father Leon Fouquet between 1882 and 1885, with the school added in 1868 and staffed by the Sisters of St. Ann. The park is also associated with Bishop Durieu, who presided over the Easter retreats in the 1870s, and oversaw the construction and consecration of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1892. The grotto is still in use today for Marian pilgrimages. Though a 1996 reconstruction of the 1894 original, the six-sided cupola, dome and white cross remain a landmark for travelers and are representative of the community effort to rebuild.
St. Mary’s Mission is also valued by the local community for its vital efforts to assist with flood relief in 1948, when hundreds of displaced farm animals received shelter and care. The physical remains of the residential school buildings are significant for reminding visitors of the relationship between early Christian groups and Indigenous people from their first encounters to the present day, including the dark aspects of this shared history. The survival of the site in its entirety provides a common ground for cultural dialogue and for healing. In 2001, the Mission Indian Friendship Centre Society erected the St. Mary’s Memorial, to continue the process of reconciliation.