It was a community effort that built the Catholic church at Sugar Cane more than 100 years ago and it’s with that same spirit that it has been restored to its former glory.
“It’s something else to see, it’s just beautiful,” said Williams Lake Indian Band Councillor Joanne Moiese, who was moved to tears when she stepped into the newly renovated church last month.
“To have it come back to the community is amazing.”
Current Councillor Rick Gilbert and his wife Anna were the catalysts behind the renovation. They said they saw a need to restore the building and the Catholic faith for the community.
“It was abandoned – it just broke our hearts,” said Anna Gilbert, who worked hard scraping away the old paint and tearing down walls to reveal the original church design.
“Now you can see what a treasure it is,” she said.
Rick said he led a restoration of the church 30 years ago when he was chief, and saw the need again now.
“I saw the church in a sad state and thought I needed to do something about it.”
The church now has power and heat, and a newly covered, sound-proof confessional to name just a few of the improvements.
The Gilberts even went so far as to find a mid-1800s Tabernacle light on E-Bay from the Netherlands for the restoration. The original had gone missing, and held many memories for parishioners, many of whom they hope will now come back to the church.
“I can just picture it (full of people) and hope it comes back again – keep it in your prayers we have a revival.”
Chief Ann Louie said she’s also excited about the restoration and is thankful to all the businesses who helped make the project possible.
“Without them it wouldn’t have happened.”
One of the more obvious donations is a beautiful outdoor gazebo with indoor washroom facilities located close to the church, which never before had a washroom.
Pioneer Log Homes of B.C. Bryan Reid Sr. and staff were onsite putting the finishing touches on the gazebo, including erecting a silver cross on top of a red-roofed log to match the church, with a time capsule inside.
Reid said his mother Anna Crucil, for which the gazebo is named, and her five children sought support from the church when she first arrived in Williams Lake in 1962 with four sons and a daughter.
“The church gave us shelter,” Reid said of why his company embraced the project.
“Williams Lake has been very, very good to us. We’re happy to do this, it is an honour.”
Catholic Bishop David Monroe and Father Derrick Cameron were also on hand for the reveal and said they were pleased the restoration was a community effort, much like the church’s beginnings.
“We got the physical church, now we need to build on the People of God, which is the (real) church – a revival of the faith,” said Father Derrick.