The bright beings in the air around the Ste. Anne Catholic Parish are not angels, they are construction workers in high visibility clothing. The grand entrance of the iconic church right now is covered in scaffolding as crews race to complete reconstructive work before the end of fall.
It is for safety’s sake that Parish Administration Board Chair Ray La Flèche says certain repairs on the historical building have now become necessary.
“The church was built in 1895 and in 1915 they added a bell tower,” he explains. “I guess that separation of time caused an issue between how the roof and church are connected to the tower.”
The three French bells beneath the steeple collectively weigh about 5,000 pounds. When dealing with that kind of heft, Le Flèche says any kind of instability quickly becomes a very serious issue. “Critical,” he calls it. Steadying the structure and replacing much of its old brick are cumulatively expected to cost roughly $800,000.
Also included in this work is the installation of new doors at the front entrance. As an official municipal heritage site, the church is eligible for a certain amount of funding from the Manitoba Government every year. The funding from 2020 will pay for two new period-authentic wooden doors.
According to La Flèche, these projects only make up Phase One of a three-phase masterplan that is expected to take several years. Future projects will include redoing the windows and recoloring the building’s trim. While the work is and will continue to be extensive, he figures 105 years between major exterior repairs is still a pretty good average. To La Flèche, the expenses are well worth it if it means preserving history.
“Even people who don’t live in Ste. Anne tell us they love our church not just for the building, but also for what it represents,” he says. “It is more than just a Ste. Anne treasure; we believe it is a Canadian treasure.”
In the entire St. Boniface Diocese which includes nearly one hundred Catholic churches across the province, La Flèche says his parish is the oldest building still in regular use. Occasional maintenance like this will ensure Ste. Anne parishioners have a gathering place for hundreds of more years to come.