An ongoing initiative is still underway to renovate St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in the Old Village of the Hay River Reserve.
The work actually began in 2014 and may even continue into next year on the church, which was built in 1895 by Oblate missionaries.
Father Don Flumerfelt explained the improvements to the church were actually divided into two different projects.
The current work is part of a $50,000 project funded by the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.
“The first part was last year,” said Flumerfelt of that project. “We had a crew of 10 here scraping all the exterior walls of peeling paint, hammering in places where nails were sticking out and all that stuff.”
The exterior of the church was then painted a bright white.
“Then I said, ‘We’re going to need some more very gifted hands,'” said Flumerfelt of putting on the red trim. “So I put out a call on Facebook to see if any artist would be willing to give a hand.”
That red trim is now being applied by Hay River artist Colinda Cardinal.
“She’s been working here almost two weeks now,” Flumerfelt said on July 20, explaining an artist was hired to make sure the trim was done precisely. “Basically we didn’t want splatter.”
Ironically, Cardinal is now painting a church that she once painted on canvas.
“I thought that was neat, too,” she said.
Cardinal said she also painted on canvas the nearby St. Peter’s Anglican Church before it was knocked down in spring flooding of the Hay River in 2008.
“I wanted to paint some of the old churches before they were gone, and have them documented on canvas,” she said.
The current project will also involve some work inside the church, including refurbishing of the pews by inmates at the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre (SMCC).
“They are working on two benches now and we’re just going to take them two benches at a time,” said Flumerfelt, noting the work is being done in a workshop at SMCC.
The hardwood floor will also be sanded and a new varnish applied, and new carpet will be added to the aisle.
When everything is done, Flumerfelt said the church will look “pretty spiffy.”
The exterior work, including some new shakes on the roof, is hoped to be completed by the end of August, with the interior work completed by next year.
Flumerfelt said while the diocese has allocated $50,000 for the work, the final expense might be in the vicinity of $35,000 to $40,000 because of all the support it has received from the community.
“There are all kinds of people contributing various things,” he said. “I mean we got some shakes to repair the roof.”
In the fall of 2014, the historic church was moved about 13 metres sideways and a metre higher in an $89,000 project paid for by K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN).
That work was designed to strengthen the foundations of the church and to offer it some more protection in case of spring flooding.
Prior to that, the church had been closed for a year and a half because of problems with its foundations.
KFN also built a new front deck, since the ramp had been taken out by the ice in the spring of 2008.
“Our covenant was once having re-established it so we could open the doors again then our task was to really make it presentable,” said Flumerfelt. “It hadn’t been painted in a very long time.”
The priest said there was a $30,000 restoration project in 1997, although he doesn’t know what work was done at that time.