Sister Emilie

Although not particularly notable with regard to her degree of incorruptibility, the case of Amelia Brice, Sister Emilie of the Convent of the Epiphany in Truro, Cornwall, is notable due to the fact that the nun was Anglican, and accounts of Anglican incorruptibility are very rare.

The Crantock Burial Register

Some few years ago, and shortly after starting work at the Cornwall Record Office, a colleague, aware of his interest for such matters, drew the attention of Chris Bond to an intriguing note written in the margin of the burials register for the parish of Crantock in Cornwall.1 The entry reads as follows:

Page 77 – No.616 – Jane Mary Searle, of West Pentire (sojourner from Rosewin School, Truro), buried July 6th 1908, age 13
Page 78 – No.617 – Annie Sophia Frost, of West Pentire (sojourner from Rosewin School, Truro), buried July 6th 1908, age 14

And adjacent to the latter is written the following:

“These two children were washed by a great wave from the rocks at West Pentire on June 23rd and drowned together with Sister Emilie, of the Community of the Epiphany in Truro, who was in charge of them and gave her life in the attempt to save them, G.M.P.”

A further note adds:

“The body of Sister Emilie was not recovered until about 14 days later. It was then picked up from the sea at a considerable distance from the shore and some miles from West Pentire, near Trevose Head. The Sister still lay as she had been seen to float out of reach at the time of the accident, face downwards, on the water. Her features were quite placid, unmortified and undisfigured by injury or fish-bite. Her habit was intact and entire, the Community Cross still pendant from her neck. No sign of corruption was noticeable, though the bodies of the two children, found many days before, and buried, had been badly decomposed. I vouch for the truth of this apparently miraculous preservation of the heroic and saintly Sister’s body, as to which I was quite authentically informed at the time. This preservation of the body for more than ten days in the open sea was accounted for (so far as it could, by natural causes be) by the Sister’s having fallen face first into the sea, after striking her head against a rock (as she was seen to do on falling in) and so remained without respiration and floating face downward, until she was so lifted out of the open sea. I bear this testimony, being absolutely convinced of its truth, George Metford Parsons, Vicar.”


The Records of The Convent of the Epiphany

Intrigued by this strange twist on the ‘holy incorruptibles’ theme Bond dug out the archives of The Community of the Epiphany (uncatalogued) and found these entries:

Register of The Community of the Epiphany – Amelia Brice, Sister Emilie, novice 9th January 1889, professed 7th May 1892, entered into rest June 23rd 1908.

Sister’s Chapter Book, 1903-1910 – the entry for July 7, 1908 mentions the discovery of the bodies of the two girls but makes no mention of Sister Emilie’s body, the entry for August 3, 1908 mentions a collection of donations for a memorial to Sister Emilie, the entry for July 5, 1909 mentions the service at the dedication of a memorial to Sister Emilie at Truro Cathedral.2

Bond also found a photograph album containing a couple of photos of Sister Emilie and a contemporary newspaper cutting concerning the event.


Conclusions

There was no mention of her incorruptibility anywhere in these records, although as the community was Church of England they may have been reticent to advertise the matter, and no records concerning her burial have yet been located. Bond checked the later entries in the Crantock register for any record of a burial for Amelia Brice but found nothing. He also checked the burial register for the parish of Kenwyn, where The Community of the Epiphany have a communal burial plot, but again he drew a blank. She may well have been interred in her home parish, and would of course have been registered under the name of Amelia Brice.


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