WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Lac Ste. Anne Church building committee David Symbaluk, left, Jeannette Symbaluk, Sr. Lucie Lefebvre, Nellie McNeely and Kevin McNeely, stand in front of the crucifix from the original church.
LAC STE. ANNE - Eighty years ago an old dance hall was moved to Lac Ste Anne and converted into a church. From 1930 onward, the building served the Catholic community.
But the walls were bulging at the seams. Aside from its unsafe structure, the old white church had other problems, such as no washrooms, no office for the priest, limited wheelchair access and a seating capacity for only 110.
In early 2009, a small delegation met with Archbishop Richard Smith about their plans to construct a new church.
Getting the go-ahead from the archbishop, the parish council's Bob Kennedy put in countless hours demolishing the old building, and ground was broken for a new church. The church had served the community until August 2009.
Dave and Jeannette Symbaluk took the initiative to get the project started and their drive kept it going. Ray Kronewitt assembled the church kitchen. Sisters Lucie Lefebvre and Therese Lasage arranged, through the Grey Nuns, to donate an altar and beautiful wooden pews to seat over 180.
The first Mass was held at the new mission church Feb. 28. The archbishop presided over its official blessing Aug. 7.
Kevin McNeely, chairperson of the building's finance committee, thanked everyone involved with making the new church a reality, especially for their donations of money, time and talent. He said they were fortunate to have a dedicated building committee that worked on the project every day until its completion.
"There are not too many churches, if any, that open debt free," said McNeely. Money for the project came from generous parishioners and three Catholic Missions in Canada grants of $50,000 each.
Parishioners, along with their friends and families, assisted with non-monetary donations as well. People donated cupboards, stove, fridge, bookshelf and other necessary items.
"People would ask, 'What do you need?' and things would come," said Jeannette Symbaluk.
The lilac bush and peonies at the steps of the old church were kept, and are now deemed a special landmark.
"In keeping with the attachment and meaning of the old church, we kept statues and the frame of the Last Supper from the old church," said Symbaluk.
"The original statue of St. Anne that was in a niche over the doors of the old church was refinished by a friend of Lac Ste. Anne Mission and sits in the grotto in the foyer of the new church."
Nellie McNeely said that they tried to keep the feeling of intimacy of the old church. Feedback from visitors has been positive. Guests say the new church is warm, welcoming and, for those coming from large city parishes, unique.
A main intention was to create a church for the people - a true house of God - and everyone involved hopes that goal has been achieved. Pews are comfortable, kneelers are padded and colours were selected to be conducive for prayer. The new church has a crying room, kitchen, furnished banquet room, Sunday school room and an office for the priest.
"This was a project of love and certainly a privilege for all who worked so hard to accomplish this mission. But we know the Holy Spirit was there to guide us through it all," said Symbaluk.
Oblate Father Alex Carrier allowed flexibility in the many decisions that were made. Carrier also pastors missions for the Alexis Reserve and Paul Band. Another goal of building a new church was to centralize the mission churches and have greater collaboration among the communities.