St. Eugene Church, Cranbrook

The St. Eugene Church is located on the St. Mary’s Indian Band Reserve, across the highway from the St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino. As a local landmark, it is one of the few Victorian-era wooden churches remaining in British Columbia. The church was founded shortly after St. Eugene Mission was established by the Oblate Order in 1873.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to Canada from France in 1841 to promote Christianity to Indigenous people and new settlers. While many of their contributions were celebrated in the past, they have more recently issued apologies for their role in the residential school system and for the part they played in the “cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious imperialism” towards Indigenous people.
It is this association with the Francophone Oblates that represents part of the church’s heritage value. Father Coccola, who was head of the mission, raised money to build the church in 1897 through the proceeds of a rich mine claim in the area.
The elegant structure features a tall steeple, stained glass windows, buttresses at each corner, and cut shingles, as well as artwork and statues inside the building. The stained-glass windows were imported from Italy, most of which are still in their original condition. Portions of the church were also pre-fabricated in Italy and brought to its present home. The church interior was constructed locally using tongue and groove methodology, with the help of local Band members. It opened for worship on Palm Sunday in 1898.