Profiles of Historic Sites
St. Anthony's Church
29485 Donatelli Avenue
Date of Original Construction:
One room wood frame church, with a simple belfry tower over the entrance. Located on 10 to 12 acres of farmland, just north of the CPR tracks, and south of the Lougheed Highway about 5 km west of downtown Mission
The lumber used for the church originated from a building on the south side of the Fraser River for railway workers when the CN railroad was being built in the 1890s. When rail construction of was complete, the buildings all had to be cleared.
Catholic families on the north side of the River wanted the building, so the CNR donated it to them. It was dismantled and moved across the Fraser River on a raft, and rebuilt on Gaetano Donatelli's property as a church, with the assistance of the Graffe, Patterson, Marsh and McCormick families. The church was completed in the early 1900s.
There was only one room and no belfry. Years later, Guiseppe Donatelli and Mr. McCormick built the belfry. The church was heated by a small wood burning stove. The Nickel family donated the organ.
Father Leon Fouquet, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, came to perform mass once a month by river steamer or train on Saturday and would stay overnight. Carminella, Gaetano's wife, would try to fix up Father Fouquet's threadbare clothes when he would stay overnight. After mass, Father Fouquet would line up the children and give them back the money they had put in the collection plate.
People would come from miles around for services. Carminella was so happy to see people that she would cook lots of food for anyone who wanted to stay after church.
Many local families celebrated weddings and baptisms at the church, until about 1950 when it was de-commissioned.
The church suffered extensive damage in 1962; in August the Knights of Columbus did repairs and replaced the roof; Dominic Donatelli helped do this work. In 1985, the Knights again restored the Church, straightened and painted the old altar, replaced the original Stations of the Cross, and repaired the steps.
The Silverdale Heritage Society is now actively seeking support for restoration of the Church, as focal point of a planned heritage village site. It has been raised on I-beams to protect the foundations from further deterioration.
People Associated with the Site:
Numerous members of the original families still live in the area. John Donatelli's son, Tom, has taken over the family tradition of ringing the church bell each New Year's Eve.
1973 the short production The Funeral Ship was filmed there. Bix Milanich was given permission to use the church, the interior, immediate surrounding property, and the orchard. It took 2 weeks to film the production which he wrote and directed.
Harry and Lena McLane of Silverdale renewed their vows there on July 27, 1985. They had been married at St. Anthony's 50 years before, on July 27, 1935.
Mike Donatelli, a descendent of the pioneer Donatelli brothers, is president of the Silverdale Heritage Society.
- Construction method/materials: clear felled timbers, hand hewn
There are still a number of the original grove of fruit trees, lilac, snowball and laburnum trees on the property. To the north, tall cedars shelter the area from the Lougheed Highway. The Fraser River can be glimpsed from the property.
Where to get further information:
The Mission Community Archives has an extensive collection, including the following:
- Pr 91-13 St. Anthony's Church
- Pr 91-5 Silverdale 1910
- Pr 91-2 St. Anthony's Church 1947
- Pr 91-11 St. Anthony's Church June 13, 1970
- Pr 91-12 St. Anthony's Church
- Pr 95-23 St. Anthony's Church
- Pr 91-6 Silverdale 1910
- Pr 92-20 St. Anthony's Church Silverdale
Many local families also have albums and collections that feature events at the Church.
- Donatelli History by John Donatelli, 1990. St. Anthony's pages 22 to 24.
- "Preserving a Piece of History" The Times newspaper. Oct. 20, 2006 pg.3
- "The Historian". Spring 2005 newsletter. Mission District Historical Society mov
- Silverdale Heritage Village Character Study - Sacred Spaces
Last Modified January 30, 2011