Reports from the Dominican Christmas Mission
Thank you for your prayers for our traveling friars who brought the Sacraments to remote communities across Alaska for Christmas! Below we have updates and photos from each friar. In the cold of the Alaskan winter, you'll see the joy of Catholics coming together to celebrate Christ's birth! We hope you enjoy the updates!
Our Dominicans were spread out from New Mexico to South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri for Christmas!
Reporting from St. Francis Xavier, Kotzebue: Fr. Bart Hutcherson, O.P.
A priest from Nome serves the small Catholic Community in Kotzebue, but 2017 was the last time a priest was there to celebrate Christmas Mass. General participation in the life of the Church has also been devastated by Covid. So the people appreciated having a Dominican there for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Christmas, and Holy Family Sunday.
I had been blessed to visit Kotzebue twice during my 7 month Alaskan sojourn last year. And it was a joy to return again to bring the Light of Christmas in this darkest part of the year (Kotzebue is 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle). The people braved blizzard conditions and sub-zero temperatures to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And on the Feast of the Holy Family, we welcomed a three year old named Raylin into the waters of Baptism. If you would like to hear more about my experiences, the Christmas message I recorded in Kotzebue is available at www.FrBart.com.
Reporting from St. Theresa’s Church, Naknek: Fr. Peter Rogers, O.P.
I was excited to accept an assignment to visit St. Theresa’s Church in Naknek, a mission church where none of the Dominicans at Holy Family Old Cathedral had visited. I found a very attractive sea-blue church with a comfortable residence for visiting priests, and a small but very faithful community. At Christmas Eve Mass, 14 members of the community joined me to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a manger, born of Mary and Son of God. We sangChristmas hymns a cappella and after a joyful and holy Mass, we all posed for a Christmas photo.
The people expressed great gratitude to me for coming from Oakland, CA, to provide Christmas and Sunday liturgy for them, and I told them how excited and joyful I was to visit them in Naknek and share Christmas with them. It was absolutely worth traveling 2629 miles to be with them in Naknek on Bristol Bay
Reporting from St. Patrick’s, Barrow: Frs. Martin Walsh, O.P., and James Moore, O.P.
Barrow is a land of complete darkness in the winter. They do not see the sun between November 18th and January 22nd. We were there on the darkest day of the year with only a slight lightening of the horizon! They also had not had Mass since October. Fr. Martin and I tried to get the word out that priests were in town. We spent 11 full days there, always wearing our habits in public places to spark conversations and questions. The weather was cold and dark – but were able to bring the light of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and by Preaching the Word!
I didn’t have any direct visions of Angels, but as soon as (a very full) Midnight Mass was over, the heavens declared the Glory of God! The Northern Lights shone above Barrow! God has entered into time and become Man! All creation sings Gloria in excelsis!!
Reporting from Talkeetna, Trapper Creek and Glenallen 500 Miles in 24 Hours: Fr. Alejandro Crosthwaite, O.P., and Br. Benedict Mary, O.P.
In the 24 hours that it takes the Earth to rotate once on its axis, there is time, it seems, for nearly anything. Between December 24 and 25, Fr. Alejandro Crosthwaite, O.P., and Br. Benedict Bartsch, O.P., continued the tradition of riding more than 500 miles in 24 hours to preach the Birth of Christ and bring the Christmas Eucharist to the communities of Trapper Creek, Talkeetna, and Glennallen.
Known as "The Sleighride" mission, in total, they rode 542 miles - about the distance between San Diego and San Francisco in California. Despite the icy conditions, they relished the challenge of driving in winter. Three different communities, rural (Trapper Creek), semi-urban (Talkeetna), and semi-rural (Glennallen), all welcomed Christmas with joy and thanksgiving. Talkeetna, which had the most elaborate festivities with caroling, a Christmas pageant, and Christmas reception, was also privileged to hear Br. Benedict’s chanting of the Christmas Proclamation. This was a first for this community and was very much appreciated as well as his singing voice. The simpler celebration in Trapper Creek, which meant Br. Benedict had to play many more roles during the Mass, was enlivened by a jazzy-piano accompaniment. The same was the case in Glennallen where the community itself sang with gusto a repertoire of Christmas hymns to accompany the Christmas Day Mass followed by a warm reception with local baked goods. St. Nick not only brought toys to Glennallen but a whole infantry of Christmas newborns! The friars were very thankful to the Rauchenstein Family who offered them food and lodging at their Swiss Alaska Inn in Talkeetna. Unlike the Holy Family, they didn’t have to sleep in a stable!
Reporting from St. Christopher’s by the Sea, Dutch Harbor, Fr. Andy Opsahl, O.P.
Parish life at St. Christopher’s by the Sea in Dutch Harbor is truly coming fully alive again. After a year and a half of low Mass attendance due to Covid restrictions, all nine Masses were packed for Simbang Gabi, which is a very important part of the lead up to Christmas for Filipinos. Each night we celebrated with amazing food. At the Christmas Masses we had singing with accompaniment from one of the high school girls. Also, for Christmas Day, UniSea, the cannery on Dutch Harbor, allowed me on site to celebrate Mass for its employees for the first time since before the pandemic. I also was able to do four baptisms, and top it all off, the weather on most days was in the fifties, so I got to jog everyday like it was spring.