Called by name

Father Ross with fellow JVC volunteers

This month (in our February newsletter), we share reflections from Father Ross Tozzi: the parish priest of Nome’s St. Joseph Catholic Church, the president of KNOM’s board of directors, and a former KNOM volunteer.

Fr. Ross shares what’s kept him coming back to Nome through the decades:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name: you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b) In 1987, two years before I ever set foot in Alaska, I heard the voice of the Lord calling me. It was a simple, quiet whisper to, “Join the JVC.” As a result of that call, I left a career in the Army to become a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and wound up as a disc jockey for KNOM in Nome.

“Bring back my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: all who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them.” (Is. 43:6b–7). When my three years as a volunteer came to an end in 1992, I left town thinking I might never return. But each summer, hearing my name called, I returned to volunteer my time and talents. During the summer of my fifth return visit to Nome, Bishop Michael Kaniecki, SJ surprised many with the announcement that I would enter the seminary to begin studies for the priesthood. During summer breaks from the seminary, I was called back to Nome again and again. 

On KNOM’s 30th anniversary (in 2001), I was ordained a priest at Saint Joseph Church in a Mass broadcast throughout Western Alaska. I left Nome once again, not knowing if I would ever return. Eight years later, the words of the Hail Mary were on my lips as a small bush airline returned me to Nome as the new pastor of Saint Joseph Church. I am also responsible for 3 additional parishes in Western Alaska, the farthest being 183 miles north of Nome. Even while I am in far away Nome, my parishioners can tune into KNOM and hear my voice calling them by name.

Fr. Ross' ordination Mass, 2001

During Fr. Ross’ ordination Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Nome, 2001.

Father Ross in Rome

Father Ross during a recent visit to the Vatican.