This is a story about faith, courage and devotion. It’s a story about the man who is credited with forming the settlement through his mission in the Okanagan Valley which became the city of Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada
Father Charles Marie Pandosy was born in 1824 near Marseilles, France and was ordained into the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an order of Catholic Priests founded in 1824 in France. Oblate translated means ‘total giving’ or sacrifice, and this is what those ordained set out to achieve by means of missionary work.
After a period working in Oregon in the US, Father Pandosy and Father Pierre Richard established a Mission in the Okanagan area in 1859. Their Mission in what is now known as Mission Creek was lovingly tended and nourished for thirty years. It became a local focus for religious, cultural and social happenings whilst they built up a large farm and cattle ranch. They also built the region’s first church and school.
Times were tough for the Brothers as they used the Mission as a base to travel to surrounding Native settlements around the Okanagan with their message of faith and to educate the local people. European settlers also found great benefit from the Brother’s good work in that they helped educate their children and offered them a lifeline with civilisation. It wasn’t until 1977 that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate withdrew from the Okanagan Valley. Their work done and their message left behind indelibly.
There are many interesting accounts of the life and times of Father Pandosy. One such tale was of him throwing a knife forcibly into a tree to deter an aggressive Native. Indeed The Father was not always universally accepted by the local aboriginal people and had to work extremely hard to gain their trust.
In his latter days it was said that another of the Brothers came to find Father Pandosy later in his life in a state of mental ill-health. The Brother reported that Pandosy was in possession of plenty of food but clearly unable to look after himself in an appropriate fashion. It was also said that his appearance had become unkempt, his cassock ripped into shreds and tatters.
For many years it was always argued as to where Father Pandosy was buried. Finally some years ago a group of students from the University of British Columbia set out to end the riddle of where he lay. His body was finally found in a vegetable field near the Mission, buried under a tomato patch. His place of rest is now commemorated with a small replica church – a suitable consideration for the kindly and brave Father. I am told anecdotally that Father Pandosy’s body had been preserved in immaculate condition under the earth where he lay. This fact still appears to remain a mystery as to why.
One afternoon recently I paid a call to Father Pandosy’s original Mission. It was a fine visit and a touching moment or two was had as I wandered around the original Mission buildings and relics of that time. Particularly humbling was the Mission Chapel which the Oblates built. Upstairs was originally a school house and the living quarters for Father Pandosy and Father Richard. The fairly modest building is nevertheless cosy, warm and welcoming to the visitor. It’s easy to imagine Father Pandosy carrying out his good work here in his headquarters.
The story of Father Pandosy is a particularly poignant one for the citizens of Kelowna, British Columbia to remember but is also a story that transgresses purely local interest. That’s why I sought to tell it in my own words. His is a tale of the triumph of faith and optimism and of what these qualities coupled with industry can achieve. These gifts can achieve great things as Father Pandosy proved.