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A farewell for the Little Sisters

Nome's Little Sisters

This month, one of the mainstays of our Western Alaskan community departs Nome.

The Little Sisters of Jesus, a religious order with more than six decades in the sub-Arctic, is moving on to points south. Through your support, KNOM brought their incredible story — and the story of their departure from Nome — to our listeners.

Sister Alice Sullivan, one of the Little Sisters, recently told KNOM what makes her order unique:

Our community [the Little Sisters of Jesus] does not do the ordinary things people are used to having Catholic sisters do. We don’t teach catechism. We don’t run hospitals. What we do is what Jesus did when he was walking the roads of Israel and Palestine. He was dealing with people individually. People who were sick, people who needed help. And that is how we accomplish our mission. We work with people on an individual level. But we choose very carefully the places we go to.

And as news director Matthew Smith described in a KNOM Profile (long-form news story) in late May, “one of those places was Western Alaska.”

The first Little Sisters to come to sub-Arctic Alaska arrived in Nome in 1952. They were soon embraced by, and immersed themselves within, two of the Native communities KNOM would eventually serve: King Island and Little Diomede. The sisters’ first winters in Western Alaska introduced them to the challenges of our region’s traditional lifestyle — in particular, the subsistence way of life that is still cherished to this day — and it also enamored them to the faith communities of Nome and points beyond.

The Little Sisters’ work in Diomede, in particular, laid the groundwork for what would become Diomede’s (Catholic) church: no small feat, considering the village’s drastically challenging location, nestled among the cliffs of a remote Alaskan island in the middle of the Bering Strait.

After so many years in Nome, it was a bittersweet moment in late May, 2014, as the Little Sisters officially bid farewell to our community with a special Mass at Nome’s St. Joseph Catholic Church. Presiding at the event was Anchorage’s Archbishop Roger Schwietz, assisted by KNOM board president Father Ross Tozzi and board secretary Deacon Bob Froehle. The photos above show all of the Little Sisters (grouped at top), along with snapshots of the Mass: in particular, Sister Damiene addressing the congregation and holding up a special plaque presented to the Little Sisters by Archbishop Schwietz. Thanks to Nome’s Carol Gales for these photos!

We urge you to listen to our special Profile on the Little Sisters. It tells their incredible story in greater depth, and it’s a shining example of the outstanding storytelling your support makes possible!


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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.