St. Anne’s Church has revealed a surprise.
During work to replace the church’s foundation at O’Keefe Ranch Thursday, a 126-year-old letter was discovered.
“It just appeared on the ground under a joist. It’s pretty amazing,” said Glen Taylor, general manager.
“The paper is in great shape. It doesn’t look more than a year old.”
The letter is dated April 30, 1889 and it’s addressed to Cornelius O’Keefe by Alphonse Carion, an Oblate priest at Okanagan Mission (Kelowna).
In it, Carion states, “Dear sir, with your kind permission I intend to say holy mass at your residence on Palm Sunday, the 14th inst (in or of the present month). Have the kindness to notify it to all Catholics living in your vicinity.”
Carion also passes his regards on to O’Keefe’s wife and a visitor.
St. Anne’s Church was dedicated Dec. 24, 1889.
“The church is being built at the time of the letter so services were being done in the home,” said Ken Mather, the ranch’s curator emeritus.
Mather has a theory about how the letter wound up with the floor joists.
“O’Keefe put it in his pocket and it fell out or was lost as the floor boards were going down,” said Mather.
“It gives us a fascinating glimpse of the church being constructed.”
Carion designed and painted the church.
Beyond the letter, which will be added to the ranch’s archives, other historical items are being identified during excavation.
“We are finding trim ends when they put the siding up on the church,” said Taylor.
St. Anne’s was the first Catholic church in the Okanagan and it’s starting to show its age.
“The whole exterior has to be done,” said Taylor.
Repairing the foundation is the first phase of restoration, with future work to include the siding and steeple. Donations are being sought.
“Anyone contributing for the new works will have their name attached to a list that will be mounted in the church,” said Taylor.