History of the Archdiocese

About Alaska

Map of the Archdiocese of Anchorage

Alaska is a land of great national beauty and environmental diversity. One-fifth the size of the United States, Alaska is the northern-, western- and easternmost point in the United States. It’s true! Mainland Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline and, including islands, 33,904 miles of shoreline. Diversity, as in all of God’s creation, is abundant in Alaska.

The largest state in the United States, Alaska is a sparsely populated land of immense natural beauty. Its Aleutian Islands extend into the Eastern Hemisphere. Alaska’s tremendous land mass is equal to one-fifth of the continental United States. Commonly called The Last Frontier or Land of the Midnight Sun, Alaska takes its name from an Aleut word meaning “great land” or “that which the sea breaks against.”

Alaska has three million lakes, over 3,000 rivers, 17 of the USA’s 20 highest peaks, 15 national parks, preserves, and monuments, about 100,000 glaciers, 60 of which are within 50 miles of Anchorage. Portage Glacier, 45 miles south of downtown Anchorage, is one of Alaska’s most visited attractions.


 

History of the Archdiocese of Anchorage

History of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska

Begun in 1966, by then Archbishop Joseph Ryan, with a census of the Anchorage and throughout Knik Arm, the Archdiocese of Anchorage was established for the some 38,000 baptized Catholics in the area from Valdez to Mt. McKinley from Big Lake to Dutch Harbor. An area twice the size of the state of Washington covers from about one-third the entire state of Alaska.

The diocese, which includes 29 parishes, was officially established on February 9, 1966. Catholic missionaries in Alaska date back to the 18th century, and today’s Archdiocese, which encompasses over 350,000 square miles covering from the Aleutian Islands chain to the Bering Sea to Cordova and Valdez.


History Timeline

1966

  • Archdiocese of Anchorage established
  • Fr. Joseph Ryan consecrated a bishop
  • Bishop Ryan installed as Archbishop and Holy Family Church becomes a Cathedral

1970

  • Fr. Francis Hurley ordained a bishop
  • Eskimo Deacon Program inaugurated in Bethel

1971

  • Holy Spirit Center is established

1976

  • Bishop Hurley appointed Archbishop of Anchorage

1981

  • Pope John Paul II visits Anchorage

1991

  • Nativity of Jesus parish in Magadan, Russia is founded

1999

  • Catholic Anchor begins publication

2001

  • Roger Schwietz, O.M.I. is installed as Archbishop of Anchorage

2016

  • Paul D. Etienne, D.D., S.T.L. is installed as Archbishop of Anchorage

2019

  • Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M. of the Diocese of Juneau is named Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Anchorage
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