Father Andrew Small, OMI, National Director, is spending Christmas with our mission family in the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska – the only diocese in the United States receiving help from the Pontifical Mission Societies.
The diocese is vast, stretching from Tok, near the Canadian border, all the way across the state to Little Diomede near the border with Russia; from Barrow on the coast of the Arctic Ocean to Chefornak south of Nelson Island. In total, it encompasses almost 410,000 square miles, and is home to 161,000 people, 14,500 of whom are Catholics.
There are 20 active priests working in the diocese, roughly one priest for every 20,000 square miles. Many parishes and missions are lucky to see a priest every other month. (Father Andrew is shown in the picture here with Father Charles (Chuck) Peterson, SJ - here as Santa for a parish event in Bethel, Alaska; Father Chuck is a longtime missionary priest in Alaska, serving there since the early 1970s.) Also serving: 26 permanent deacons, two Franciscan Brothers and 15 Sisters from various Religious Communities. Lay people are also key leaders in Church ministries in Fairbanks – and about 1,000 people offer their service as volunteers.
The diocese has two Catholic schools – one elementary and one high school – and is home to the oldest Catholic radio station in the country, KNOM – first on the air in July 1971.
Father Andrew's visit with our Alaskan mission family is chronicled on our website and our Facebook page. Make the journey with him – and celebrate “Christmas in Alaska”!
The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerful missionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.