History of the Archdiocese

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.

Under the guidance of Archbishop Roger Schwietz, the Archdiocese is proud to celebrate the dedication and ethnic diversity of its members as we approach our golden jubilee in 2016 with Catholics of many nationalities attending one of the 29 parishes and missionary parishes in the Archdiocese.

History Timeline


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


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


  • Holy Spirit Center is established


  • Bishop Hurley appointed Archbishop of Anchorage


  • Pope John Paul II visits Anchorage


  • Nativity of Jesus parish in Magadan, Russia is founded


  • Catholic Anchor begins publication


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


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

50th Anniversary Celebration

The Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage will mark its 50th Anniversary, February 9, 2016. Plans are currently being made for a year long celebration leading up to the anniversary. 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.

The Archdiocese is excited to explore and support the joy of its ethnic diversity in the months leading up to this historic celebration. Joining in the celebration will be Catholic Social Services who will also be celebrating their 50th anniversary in the Archdiocese. Currently, a committee is in the preparation process exploring options to promote and celebrate this great event.

Visit A Season of Blessings web page for more celebration information.

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