Anahim Lake builds new church
By LAUREEN McMAHON
Out of the ashes of a demolished church and the broken hearts of the
Anahim Lake Catholic community has come revived hope with the blessing July
6 of a brand new Our Lady of the Blessed Visitation Church by Archbishop
Just a year ago, Anahim Lake’s 600 residents were plunged into mourning
at news of the death of Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Brian Ballard. The
priest perished near Valemont, B.C., when his float plane crashed on the way
to a conference in Alberta. His Oblate companion on the trip, Father Ivan
McCormack, also died.
News of the tragic accident came a week after Anahim Lake’s parish church
was demolished to make way for new construction. As the one event followed
so quickly on the other, the close-knit residents found themselves reeling.
Father Ballard had been coming to Anahim Lake since 1991, flying in
regularly from his base in Smithers. Anahim Lake was one of two communities
he served in the Vancouver archdiocese; the other was Bella Coola.
But now the community is looking to the future, as Father Maynard Boomars,
now priest for both Anahim Lake and Bella Coola, concelebrated the Mass for
the blessing of the church with the archbishop.
As they paused to celebrate, some members of the Ulkatcho First Nations
reflected on how, by throwing themselves into the church’s creation, they
have found healing.
Seventy-nine-year old Mack Squinas, known to many as the “church chief,”
says he is particularly proud of the new steeple in which the old church
bell is now mounted.
“The bell is 20 feet up there,” Squinas reflected, “It’s really nice. A
real nice church.”
Countless volunteers joined the paid workers in every aspect of the
church building, said a spokesperson. Some cut the timbers on the
community’s small portable sawmill while others assisted as the foundation
was poured and the subfloor laid.
Timber by timber, board by board, and nail by nail, the new church took
shape. When the snows came, construction had to stop as everyone waited for
better weather. All fund-raising was done by the community.
Father Boomars, who lives on the Anaham Reserve near Alexis Creek more
than 200 kilometres east of Anahim Lake, says he covers a good 700-kilometre
radius, crisscrossing territory in and out of 11 Cariboo-Chilcotin missions
from Alkali Lake, Dog Creek and Alexandria in the east, along the Fraser
River and clear across the Chilcotin to the tideflats of Bella Coola.
In his absence, Anahim Lake is served by lay ministers Bill Mero and
Allan Louie who host gatherings and, over the past year, have held Communion
services in the two-room rectory. Bill’s wife Margaret helps out with
visiting the sick.
The new church, which holds about 200 people, was filled to the brim for
the Mass of Blessing. A salmon dinner was served later and the archbishop
was presented with a ceremonial blanket.
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