SISTER CAECILIUS (FLORENCE) ROTH, C.S.C. (1916-1990)
P.O.W. WORLD II
She was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1916 and entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1934. In 1937 Sister Caecilius was assigned to Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, OH as a student nurse. Upon completing her nursing program in 1940, she was assigned with Sister Olivette (Whalen) to missionary work in India. On their way to India in 1941, they were arrested by the Japanese in Manila and held as prisoners of war with 17 other Holy Cross religious. In Sister Olivette’s account of the imprisonment, “Round Trip to the Philippines” (1945), she recalled, “Our first warning of disaster came on Christmas Day. After a three-hour aid raid, the captain of the U.S. Medical Corps called the entire staff into his office to inform us that General MacArthur had declared Manila an open city. We were informed that the Japanese were approaching in force from both the north and south. Within two hours there was a second air raid. In order to prevent a panic, the Sisters gathered the Filipino nurses in the chapel and kept walking up and down the aisles reciting the rosary out load. Sister Caecilius was the first to catch sight of the flag of the Rising Sun, carried by a truck-load of Japanese soldiers…as we waited in anxious suspense for the first contact with the enemy. It came at two o’clock in the morning when we heard shouting in Japanese outside the front gate. We were well aware that we were now prisoners.”
Once Sister Caecilius returned to the States and spent some time in recuperation, she became a full-time student at Saint Mary’s, completing her academic work in 1947. That year, she returned to the missions, but this time to Jaguare and Sao Paulo, Brazil where she worked in elementary education, catechetics and social work. Returning to the States in 1964, her nursing career was spent in various supervisory or directorship positions at St. Mary’s Convent. She was Administrative Assistant of Nursing Services when she died in 1990.