By Kristine Thomas
What started as instructions to carefully remove the cornerstone dated 1947 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Silverton, turned into an unexpected historical discovery with a family connection.
In January, a team began working on constructing a new narthex at the church. Bryan Pfeifer, a superintendent with Dalke Construction of Salem, recalled asking a co-worker to be careful when removing the cornerstone, as the plan is to use it when the construction is completed at the end of June.
“He came up to me and told me he found a weird box and wanted to know what it was,” Pfeifer said. “I knew exactly what the copper box was after he told me he found it behind the cornerstone.”
Finding the time capsule was a “neat moment,” Pfeifer said, because no one knew the it was hidden there.
The copper time capsule, 10 inches wide, 16 inches long and 3 inches in depth, contained a four-page history of the church dated Oct. 14, 1946; a Nov. 21, 1947 Silverton Appeal-Tribune with a headline reading “Cornerstone New Church to Be Laid,” a list of church members who made donations to the church and donation envelope with three worn coins.
“When I saw the envelope, I recognized my grandfather’s handwriting,” Pfeifer said.
The last paragraph of the newspaper article reads, “Construction on the new church was started last April and has been in the charge of the John A. Pfeifer Co.”
Seeing the time capsule and knowing his grandfather’s role in building the church, Pfeifer said he feels like everything is coming full circle. “When I began working in construction, I started with my grandfather and my dad,” he said.
And 70 years later, he’s getting to work on a project his grandfather started in April of 1947. The cornerstone was set on Nov. 23, 1947.
Pfeifer gave the time capsule to Dan Gasper, who is a cousin and a member of the church’s building committee.
A member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mount Angel, Pfeifer said he attends St. Paul’s about 15 times a year with his wife, Kristy, and their children, Tyler, 13; Jackson, 11; and Brooklynn, 9.
“My children understand how important this project is. Jackson attends youth group here and is proud of his dad. I was an altar boy at St. Paul’s,” Pfeifer said. “There’s a sense of community pride and history working on this project.”
The Rev. Basil Lawrence, O.S.B. said Dalke Co. is responsible for the construction project, which will add a new entry way, porch, handicap accessible bathrooms and three new pew rows.
“Opening the time capsule was a real treat and there were some fascinating historical items and records discovered inside,” Lawrence wrote in a church bulletin.
The leader for the middle school youth group, Lawrence said he and his students discussed what they could place in the new time capsule. He would like to have a group photo of parishioners once the project is completed.
“Hopefully the items we leave behind for future generations of St. Paul parishioners to discover will bring them the same joy and amazement we have discovered ourselves,” Lawrence wrote.
In a report to parishioners, Lawrence said the total cost of the project is $980,000 with the total money pledged so far being $883,700.
Lawrence shared this is the first project the church has undertaken in more than 50 years. Parishioners, he said, are excited to see the construction begin, especially after planning and fundraising for it for 10 years.
“We hope this will be the first of several projects,” he said. “The project has been an opportunity for revitalization for our parish and the hopes and dreams of the parishioners for their church.”