Alaska Christmas Mission

Dominicans to Travel 5,250+ Miles to Bring the Eucharist at Christmas

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them” Luke 2:8-9

In the darkest time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The light of God arriving in the world to dispel the darkness of sin and death by the blood of his Cross and the glory of his Resurrection. This month the Dominican Friars are helping bring the light and glory of Jesus to the people of Alaska. Over a period of two weeks, seven Dominican Friars will travel over 5,250 round trip miles from their parish at Holy Family Old Cathedral in downtown Anchorage to seven remote parishes and mission churches to celebrate Christmas Masses.

Alaska prides itself as America’s Last Frontier. Over twice the size of Texas, having a population of less than 750,00 people with extreme terrain and climate, the title is well-deserved. The local Church has limited resources and not enough priests. The Dominicans at Holy Family Old Cathedral in Anchorage serve one Sunday a month in Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Fairbanks, Glennallen and Dutch Harbor. All of these locations except for Fairbanks are Catholic churches without priests.

This Christmas we are bringing Dominicans up from California to extend our work of bringing the sacraments of the Church to the people of Alaska. Who are the Friars, local and visiting, going out on Alaskan Christmas missions? Where are they going?

Fr. Andy Opsahl, O.P. – parochial vicar at Holy Family Old Cathedral is going to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands. Almost 800 miles west of Anchorage, St. Christopher’s by the Sea is the western most parish in America, including Hawaii. They do not have a priest. Fr. Andy goes there for five days every month and will be there December 16-27.

Fr. James Moore, OP & Fr. Martin Walsh, O.P. are going to Barrow on the Arctic ocean. It is the northern most city in America. Fr. James is the Vicar Provincial for Advancement for the Dominicans in the Western US. Fr. Martin is the Director of our Western Dominican Mission Office. He has spent many years as a missionary in Mexico. In early November, the pastor of St. Patrick’s parish in Barrow returned back to his home diocese. A replacement is expected sometime in the spring. Fr. James and Fr. Martin will be there December 17-27.

Fr. Bartholomew Hutcherson, O.P. – professor of homiletics at our seminary the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in California and mission band preacher is going to Kotzebue in the far northwest of the state. Thirty three miles above the arctic circle, St. Francis Xavier Parish has not had a resident priest since 2017. They have not had a Christmas Mass in 4 years. Fr. Bart will be there December 18-27.

Fr. Peter Rodgers, O.P. – president of our seminary, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in California is going to St. Theresa’s church in Naknek. It is located on the south east edge of the Behring Sea. During the year St. Theresa’s church is served twice a month by bush pilot priest Fr. Scott Garret. Fr. Peter will be there Dec 23-27.

Fr. Alejandro Crosthwaite, O.P. is on sabbatical from teaching at the Angelicum in Rome and is in residence at Holy Family in Anchorage. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Fr Alejandro will drive 116 miles north of Anchorage to Trapper Creek to celebrate Mass then another 30 miles to Talkeetna for a second Mass. He will get up at 5am to drive 216 highway miles to Glennallen arriving in time for the 10am Mass. We serve these three church communities once a month, although Glennallen is visited on a separate Sunday than Talkeetna and Trapper Creek.

The local Dominicans call this mission the “Sleigh Ride”. It covers 543 miles in a little over 24 hours, allowing him to arrive home just in time for Christmas dinner.

Going with him is Br. Benedict Mary Bartsch, O.P. a student brother on his pastoral residency year at Holy Family in Anchorage. Br. Benedict is a 1st Lieutenant and chaplain candidate in the US Army Reserve. He will be Fr. Alejandro’s wingman on the “Sleigh Ride”.

Celebrating the seven Christmas Masses at Holy Family Old Cathedral in Anchorage will be Fr. Steve Maekawa, O.P. and Fr. Dismas Sayre, O.P.. Fr. Steve is the pastor of Holy Family Old Cathedral. Fr. Dismas will be celebrating a Christmas Mass in English, Spanish and Latin.

After celebrating the December 26 Sunday Masses, the brothers will fly back to Anchorage and gather at the Holy Family Rectory to celebrate the Christmas octave, enjoy prayer and meals together. 

Please pray for the safety of the Dominicans as they travel and for the people they will serve. Thank you for your prayers as we bring the Eucharist for the faithful in Alaska on Christmas when the darkest days of winter vanish as we celebrate the birth of the Light of World, Jesus Christ our Lord.

“What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:3-5

Want to follow along? We will be posting updates on our blog and social media!